The Black Mountain is a very unusual book in the Nero Wolfe series. We see a more emotional and human side of Wolfe, who travels to Montenegro to pursThe Black Mountain is a very unusual book in the Nero Wolfe series. We see a more emotional and human side of Wolfe, who travels to Montenegro to pursue a murderer who has made things personal by killing Wolfe's best friend. While I enjoy the typical formula of these books, this one was compelling in a different way. This was an interesting contrast to Prisoner's Base, which is the Nero Wolfe book I read just before this one. Prisoner's Base was a very "Archie-centric" book, where he rarely saw Wolfe, whereas The Black Mountain is much more focused on Wolfe and his backstory. Archie is a "fish out of water" who can't speak the language for most of this story, so he has little contributions of his own, and mostly just transcribes Wolfe's conversations with people once Wolfe has had a chance to report.
I admit to not knowing much about the history of this part of the world, especially prior to the conflicts in the early 1990s; while I took AP European History in high school, we didn't have time to cover much beyond World War II, and what we did cover on the Cold War era was much more focused on Russia. I've been doing some reading on my own about Eastern Europe, anyway, as some travel bloggers I've been reading are big proponents of it as a destination, so reading this book was timely in that regard, even though the 1950s Montenegro as described here is pretty bleak.
This isn't much of a mystery in the standard sense (clues, cast of suspects, etc.) It's more of a thriller or spy book, and the overall plot feels fairly contrived -- I rolled my eyes a few times at how conveniently things worked out -- but it was still enjoyable to read, if only to get a different perspective on the usual formula. I was a bit unsettled by how (view spoiler)[despite being determined to bring Marko's killer back to the US to face "civilized" justice instead of just killing him there, Wolfe and Archie seemed relatively unconcerned about the deaths of side characters that were just kind of "in the way", since they're usually portrayed as very opposed to murder in any circumstances. But I guess it's just another way of highlighting how different things are there, and how the usual avenues of justice aren't always available in a corrupt regime. (hide spoiler)] I wouldn't recommend it for first-time readers of the series, though, as it's so atypical and not really why I fell in love with these characters.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I always enjoy reading the Nero Wolfe books. This one was satisfying, but I wouldn't rank it up there as one of the best. For one thing, it's fairly hI always enjoy reading the Nero Wolfe books. This one was satisfying, but I wouldn't rank it up there as one of the best. For one thing, it's fairly heavy on Archie and light on Wolfe, and I've realized that the interactions between them is one of the most enjoyable parts of the books for me -- there isn't so much of that here. The title of this book and the cover art don't really have much to do with the plot.
The middle of this book has an exciting part that, while I had a pretty good idea of how it would turn out, kept me turning the pages to find out. I normally enjoy Nero Wolfes for the character interactions and seeing how everything fits into place, but the "action" scene was a nice change of pace. However, I felt as though a lot of the sections detailing Archie's work with the police could have been trimmed; we didn't really learn anything important and it dragged. Like most Nero Wolfe novels I've read, the solution of the crime doesn't come down to the tiny details of the crime scene, but more about motive and the psychology of the killer. I wasn't totally satisfied with how it was resolved. (view spoiler)[I'm generally not a fan of anything involving impostors. Especially because, as other readers have pointed out, he could have accomplished his goals just through his lawyer without ever having to be seen by the people he killed. (hide spoiler)] The business aspects of the novel also seemed kind of unrealistic, but maybe that was part of the point regarding the possible motives of the board of directors.
The endings of these books are usually pretty abrupt after the denouement but there's often at least a paragraph or so of wrap-up. This one just ended right then and there.
**IMPORTANT NOTE! It has come to my attention (reading the Wikipedia article for the book) that: "Random House discovered in 2011 that most of the Bantam paperback editions of Prisoner's Base lack the final chapter (17), which is 1.5 pages in length in the hardcover editions. The Wolfe Pack, the Nero Wolfe literary society, took the liberty of providing the final chapter in PDF format on its website." Here it is: http://www.nerowolfe.org/pdf/corpus/B...
That's the sort of conclusion I was looking for. So the fault this time is on the publisher, not Stout.
Sarah Jaffee is an interesting character. I didn't actually like Priscilla Eads at all, especially with her backstory, but Sarah was interesting -- not sympathetic exactly, but understandable, and she undergoes some character development after meeting with Archie.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Not my favorite of the Nero Wolfes. I actually stopped reading this for quite a while in the middle, which is rare, I usually can't put these down. INot my favorite of the Nero Wolfes. I actually stopped reading this for quite a while in the middle, which is rare, I usually can't put these down. I had trouble keeping all the male characters straight; none of them really stood out to me. The reveal of the central mystery didn't feel as "tight" as usual. But I always enjoy spending some time with Archie Goodwin....more
Okay, I did some skimming (and outright skipping) in this one, I'll admit it. Some of the chapters were just soooo boring and I didn't care about manyOkay, I did some skimming (and outright skipping) in this one, I'll admit it. Some of the chapters were just soooo boring and I didn't care about many of the characters at all. The problem with GRRM killing off so many characters early is that he then replaces them with new characters, which are just not as interesting or compelling as the originals. Related: (view spoiler)[NOT a fan of how he's bringing characters back to life, or revealing several chapters later how it was really a decoy that died, etc. It makes death feel cheap which is the opposite of how he "played for keeps" early on in the series. (hide spoiler)]
I have very mixed feelings about this series as a whole. I do like that one of the major themes in GRRM's writing is what it means to be a leader, including the day-to-day struggles that leaders face and how you really can't please everyone. But on the other hand, he can get *too* bogged down in detail, which makes the book very dull to read. One of the early Jon Snow chapters, where they made an in-depth inventory of every larder and cellar, reminded me of going shopping in the beginning of Oregon Trail II! (Still one of my favorite games ever, LOL.)
Tyrion used to be one of my favorite characters, but I hate how he was in this book. He was completely nasty to women, and constantly whiny. It was straight-up unpleasant to read. I actually stopped reading his chapters about halfway through (I read summaries of the rest.)
A narrative technique that GRRM has used throughout the series, and I definitely noticed here, is that he often tends to cut off the narrative RIGHT BEFORE something exciting happens, and then recaps it later in another chapter. But I want to read about it as it happens!
I also originally liked how this was a fairly low-magic fantasy setting; yeah, there are dragons, but I really hate when authors use magic as an excuse to get out of a plot dead end, and GRRM has started to go down that path of revealing new and very convenient magic abilities like resurrection and glamours. TV Tropes calls this "New Powers as the Plot Demands."
I just feel like this series is overrated and could REALLY use some editing. He could bundle all the extraneous stuff into another book for die-hard fans if he wanted; I just glaze over after reading endless lists of food, clothing, etc.
Also, I think I've read maybe one sex scene in the entire series that wasn't gross and/or a turnoff. GRRM seems to have some kind of fixation or fetish for people having their breasts chewed off. Eww.
I'm sure I'll keep reading and skimming this series, but I still don't plan on enriching GRRM any further. (Up until now I have borrowed all the books from friends and the library.)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm not done yet, but wow this book is something else. I keep reading because I do care about these characters at this point, but yikes. The pacing isI'm not done yet, but wow this book is something else. I keep reading because I do care about these characters at this point, but yikes. The pacing is awful; I think it was 600+ pages before anything at all really happened. Martin loves to describe scenes in intricate detail, but these pages and pages of surcoats and boiled leather and heraldry contribute very little, if anything, to the overall plot and it's very easy to start glazing over.
Martin also has some of the least erotic and most revolting sex scenes I have EVER read, and this includes fanfiction written by awkward virgin teenagers. I have to believe he's doing it on purpose at this point to troll everyone, because in this book it reaches a whole new level of awful. "And suddenly his cock was out, jutting upward from his breeches like a fat pink mast." AHAHAHkdjashdjkahskjdahdhaksjdh WHYYYYYYY...more
Apparently, this book is incredibly obscure. None of my friends have heard of it when we've discussed childhood books, and there are no reviews on GooApparently, this book is incredibly obscure. None of my friends have heard of it when we've discussed childhood books, and there are no reviews on Goodreads at all! This was one of my favorites as a kid. It's a somewhat disturbing yet hilarious story of a greedy frog that tries to drink all the water in the world until he EXPLODES. I found it again recently while my parents were sorting through some of my old stuff to give away, and it still made me laugh.
I'm not sure what that says about me. It's kind of a gross story when you think about it, but it's presented in a cartoony way, no more graphic than something like Looney Tunes....more
One of my favorite children's books, about Ferdinand the pacifist bull. Amusingly, one of the things I remember about this book is that as a child I iOne of my favorite children's books, about Ferdinand the pacifist bull. Amusingly, one of the things I remember about this book is that as a child I imagined the "cork tree" was a giant wine cork (despite the illustrations)....more
Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel was one of my favorite books as a child. I think mainly because I enjoyed stories about alive/talking boats, cars,Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel was one of my favorite books as a child. I think mainly because I enjoyed stories about alive/talking boats, cars, etc. But I re-read it recently when my parents were sorting through my childhood stuff and figuring out what to donate and, as an adult, I saw a new angle to this book. The sadness of becoming obsolete, I think, wasn't quite a concept I grasped as a child. In addition, with the current woes Seattle is having with our tunnel digger "Bertha", as well as various other transportation project troubles, I couldn't help but laugh at the way the Steam Shovel got stuck in the basement. I found the ending of the story cute without having a sudden "deus ex machina" ending like what sometimes happens in kids' books....more
I enjoyed animal and especially cat books when I was a child. I think I read this in 4th or 5th grade or so. I remember liking it a lot, and when I reI enjoyed animal and especially cat books when I was a child. I think I read this in 4th or 5th grade or so. I remember liking it a lot, and when I read Harry Potter I wondered if Minerva McGonagall, who can turn into a cat, was a shout out to this book! (I doubt it, though.)...more