Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Fer-De-Lance” as Want to Read:
Fer-De-Lance
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Fer-De-Lance (Nero Wolfe #1)

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  9,835 Ratings  ·  542 Reviews
This is Rex Stout's first mystery novel, featuring the first appearance of Nero Wolfe, one of the greatest fictional detectives of all time. As any herpetologist knows, the fer-de-lance is among the most dreaded snakes on Earth. When someone makes a present of one to Wolfe, his assistant Archie Goodwin knows the large detective must be getting dangerously close to solving ...more
Audio, 0 pages
Published February 6th 2007 by Random House Audio (first published October 1934)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Fer-De-Lance, please sign up.

Recent Questions

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Evgeny
I consider this series to be a US answer to British famous detectives: Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. When it comes to detective fiction, the personality of the character doing the detection can make or break a book, or a series. I am happy to say the personalities of the series' two main characters made them stand as equals among the greatest fictional detectives, including the ones I mentioned.

For the people unfamiliar with the series, the two main characters are Nero Wolfe, a Yugoslavia
...more
Carol ♔Type, Oh Queen!♕
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Golden Age mystery fans
Back with a couple of old friends! I may not remember which of the Nero Wolfe mysteries I read *mumble* around thirty five years ago, but I remember Archie's cheeky insouciance and Nero's eccentricities. There is real affection in their relationship;

He always thought he had a handkerchief in the breast pocket of his coat, but rarely did, so I went to the drawer where I kept a stack for him and got one and handed it to him.


But there is never any doubt who is boss!. Archie may give a bit of li
...more
Mona
Mar 11, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining, but Slightly Unbelievable, Mystery/Crime Novel



Maybe it has to do with the year the book takes place, 1933.

But let's just say that certain things that happened in the book (I won't reveal them because they are spoilers) would not have been possible today.

Maybe they were in 1933.

After all, Prohibition had just been repealed, so the atmosphere was kind of rough-and-ready.

I also found it slightly mind-blowing that the author flat out tells us who the murderer is half way through the b
...more
Jason Koivu
I'm givin' this sucka three stars, seeee?! Ya wanna make somethin' of it, tough guy?...Yeah, that's what I thought.

Actually, Fre-de-Lance by Rex Stout is more cerebral than tough-guy as far as detective fiction goes. Oh sure, there's some strong-arm scenes and a line like "Don't try no funny stuff, ya got me pal-y?" wouldn't be out of place here. However, as many of those you find, you'll discover just as many classical allusions and erudite quotables.

This is in great part due to the eccentric
...more
Jim
3.5 Stars

This is the first novel in the Nero Wolfe series and was originally published in 1934. For those who are not familiar with the series a brief introduction... Nero Wolfe is an eccentric genius who lives in a brownstone on 35th Street in New York. He rarely leaves his home where he eats gourmet meals prepared by his personal chef and tends his orchids. Archie Goodwin is Wolfe's assistant and legman. Where Wolfe is urbane and cultured Goodwin is witty and more the hard boiled detective you
...more
Jim
Generally I bump up the first book in a good series by 1 star, but I won't in this case. I'm glad I didn't start with it since it was at least 1/3 too long. The other stories I've listened to didn't seem nearly as bloated. Still, it was a good mystery & I really liked the way Stout made it feel as if it was more in the middle of the series. Archie has worked for Wolfe for 7 years & many other details added to the feel.

One downside to this was that although I downloaded it from the librar
...more
Huck Finn
Mar 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not a fan of mysteries or detective novels. Garrison Keilor admires Rex Stout, so I thought I'd give one a try. "Fer-de-Lance" is the first in a series of about 50 novels and novellas, and I am now into my tenth book.

These novels are not so plot-driven as your typical who-dunnit, although that obviously is part of the appeal. I enjoy them enormously because of the quirky characters, sarcastic humor, and clever word-play.

There are two heroes: Nero Wolfe is a morbidly obese genius who never
...more
Susan
Jul 24, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having been a lover of mysteries most of my life, there are some characters that crop up again and again. Nero Wolfe is one of them and yet, for some reason, I had never tried any books featuring this classic fictional investigator and decided to give the series a try. “Fer-De-Lance,” is the first book in the series; although the characters seem quite settled, even at this stage, and there are references to past events which means that you feel you are already in a settled series.

Published in 19
...more
Leslie
Wolfe was more talkative than I remember from the other books! But the main thing I noticed was that this first book in the series reads as if it is from the middle of the series, in the sense that Wolfe & all his cohorts are presented as having been together for a while and this is just one more case. I guess I was expecting something like A Study in Scarlet, explaining how the "gang" got together. Glad I read/listened to it but it isn't as good as some of the other books in the series...

Th
...more
Abigail Bok
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first reading of a Nero Wolfe novel, and I enjoyed it quite a bit, though the characters are not really ones I would seek out. I was impressed with the author’s pithy language: one of the things I hold against noir is its relentless fealty to cliché, and Stout’s writing feels like noir but uses a lot of surprising but apt imagery.

For those unfamiliar with the Nero Wolfe detective series, Wolfe is a morbidly obese New York City recluse with a passion for beer, orchids, and mysteries.
...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Dec 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mystery Fans
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
In this book I got acquainted with a pair of sleuths as memorable as Hercule Poroit or Lord Peter Wimsey. Or rather Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, since in some ways Archie Godwin is to Nero Wolfe what Dr Watson is to Holmes.

Archie is our narrator, the one who gives us a look at Nero's genius--but he's also less and more than Watson. He's not a friend to Wolfe, he's an employee--but since Nero is an eccentric recluse who never leaves his West 35th Street brownstone in New York City, Archie is a
...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I put this on my wish list some 5 years ago when I thought I might be in the mood to read some mysteries. At the time, I was remembering a TV series starring Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin and a cast of repertory players. I loved the series - not just the stories, which were terrific, but it was very cinematic and it was fun to see the supporting actors in differing roles where they were almost unrecognizable from the role they had last played.

Today I am wondering what took me so long to read
...more
Jane Stewart
This is special and different. Unexpected things happen.

The author’s mind is quirky - like he comes from another place. I’m frequently chuckling and smiling over the dialogue or what somebody does. So many authors sound alike when it comes to mysteries. Rex Stout is different. I would read more mysteries if they were like this.

The author began writing the Nero Wolfe series in 1934. Nero Wolfe is an extremely obese man who doesn’t like to leave his home. He is an eccentric genius. Archie Goodwin
...more
Ginny
Jun 22, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery & detective fans
Fer-de-Lance is the 1st Nero Wolfe mystery by Rex Stout, and the 2nd I have read. These are classic American detective stories from the 30s, 40s, 50s. Smart tough guys, smart writing... just fun to read. I usually recommend reading series in order, but you could probably pick up any of these. Two things...

1) The original Nero Wolfe series is by Rex Stout. There are other Wolfe books by Robert Goldsborough written in the 80-90s. I haven't read those.

2) There are many, many books in Stout's serie
...more
Carol
Jan 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
I was a bit let-down given the popularity of the Nero Wolfe series. Well-written, well-crafted mystery. I don't want to spend one more minute with Archie, the narrator. If the story was told in the third-person, I'd probably read a few more over the years. As it is, the 30's-speak of a medium-educated guy was not an appealing place to live for the week or so it took me to read this.
Suzy
I'd been thinking about revisiting this favorite sleuthing duo for a while, and decided to take the plunge after seeing a review of this first in the series here on GR. Decades ago, I read many of the 33 books and short stories penned by Rex Stout starting in 1934 and loved them. I've lost sight of the tiny little paperbacks I read back in the day, so I decided to listen this time around. Everything I enjoyed back then held true for me today and just confirmed why these books have held up so wel ...more
Judy
Jul 17, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just adding a note in January 2017 to the start of my review from 2015 to say I clearly liked this book more than I thought I did at the time, as I've gone on to read several more Rex Stout books since and now want to read them all! I also now love his writing style. The rest of this is my original review:

I'd heard good things about Rex Stout, but must admit I was rather disappointed with this book, the first in his classic series about overweight detective Nero Wolfe and his sidekick Archie Goo
...more
Donna
Jun 18, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, 2011-read
I bought this book several years ago when I was trying to expand my mystery novel reading beyond Agatha Christie. I remember reading the first few pages before becoming bored and tossing it aside in favor of a more contemporary work. I picked it up about a week ago, expecting a quick, fun read, but was sorely disappointed.

I found myself disliking nearly every character in the book, including the corpulent, agoraphobic Nero Wolfe and his closest employee, the wise-cracking, milk-drinking Archie G
...more
LJ
First Sentence: There was no reason why I shouldn’t have been sent for the beer that day, for the last ends of the Fairmont National Bank case had been gathered in the week before and there was nothing for me to do but errands, and Wolfe never hesitated about running me down to Murray Street for a can of shoe-polish if he happened to need one.

Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin’s first published case becomes one of two parts; a young woman hires Wolfe to find her missing brother, and a college preside
...more
Art (Posting elsewhere as Whistler Reads)
Holy Cow!!! What a find. The fore and after blurbs to this edition revealing info about the books and their author were almost as riveting as the incomparable mystery itself.
Altho this was the first book (of 73) in a series, it left the reader feeling thrown into the middle. The only author whom I have been reading lately that does an equal job of establishing a sense of PLACE, of CIRCUMSTANCE, with description, with word choices, would be Nora Roberts ...
When I’m driving I don’t see much of any
...more
Tom Brosz
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The books in Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series are one of my "comfort food" reads. I can re-read them endlessly. Fortunately my memory is bad enough that, given a year or so, I forget most of the mystery endings and who a lot of the bad guys were.

Fer de Lance is the first book in the Nero Wolfe series, and sets the reader down right in the middle of the Wolfe household, just as though this was the fifteenth book instead of the first. No "origin story" here. You'd think Stout had been writing about t
...more
Jamie Collins
Jul 31, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This is the first Nero Wolfe mystery novel, published in 1934, and it was way more fun than I was expecting. It’s set in a New York city in the grip of the Great Depression, at the end of prohibition.

Wolfe is a sedentary, obese, eccentric genius who rarely leaves his house. ("Be seated. You must pardon me; for engineering reasons I arise only for emergencies.") The story is narrated by his more spry assistant Archie Goodwin, who does all of the leg work, driving around town in his Roadster and o
...more
Alexis Neal
Jun 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, mystery
It's 1933, and money is scarce. So when private detective Fred Durkin shows up at the office with a woman in tow and a favor to ask, Wolfe is reluctant. The woman is Maria Maffei, a friend of Mrs. Durkin, and she wants to hire Wolfe to find her missing brother Carlo. Before long, Wolfe has connected Carlo--a metalworker--with the death of a well-respected university president, who dropped dead of a heart attack on the links of a Westchester County golf course. But was it really a heart attack? A ...more
Clarice
The first in the series written in 1936, “Fer-De-Lance” was very entertaining and well-written.

I actually liked the wise-cracking, seemingly shallow, Archie. He may have made rude observations about people based on their sex, nationality, occupation or weight, but he was an equal-opportunity-detractor, and seemed to be more immature than cruel.

Although Nero Wolf solved mysteries through observation and critical thinking much like Agatha Christie’s Poirot, instead of using his “Little Grey Cell
...more
David
Jan 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing is witty. I find many phrases I want to remember and use myself.
Sample, Wofle says to Goodwin, “Some day Archie, when I decide you are no longer worth tolerating, you will have to marry a woman of very modest mental capacity to get an appropriate audience for your wretched sarcasms.

The relationship between Nero and Archie is interesting. I think Archie tries to understand Nero by knows he won’t ever and that he is okay being the footwork man for this eccentric genius. He is portary
...more
Joe
I was introduced to the Nero Wolfe books quite recently by a fellow Goodreads member (thanks Colleen). At the beginning I have to say I was rather unimpressed, but the more I got familiar with Rex Stout's way of writing the more I liked it.

Although you wonder how the hell Wolfe leaps to the assumptions he makes(always correct), you can't help forgive him for it and his other eccentricities. Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's sidekick/riaght-hand man and all rounder puts up with more that we as the reade
...more
C.
Aug 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This a guy's book by a male, not of my era no less. I'm pleasantly surprised at how well I was carried along! I have no use for golf and am not endeared to the lazy employer, `Nero Wolfe'. However I like Archie, `Fritz', and found all interaction witty at the offset. A double mystery appeared at once that was unusual. I always love superb, correct language or whimsical, unique jargon. In Rex Stout we have both. I'm told my Grandpa liked him and I would have loved discussing it.

I thought "Fer-De-
...more
Rage
May 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book much more than I expected. the beginning felt a bit slow, and I had a hard time getting used to the characters' idiosyncracies (Archie doesn't like foreigners; whether they have names like Manuel or he's leaving his nice car on a street with a bunch of Italian kids, they give him a bad feeling. interesting for me, since I'm Italian and the fam was pretty new to America at the time this book was published). but, once I got to the end of the book, I had a lot of appreciation fo ...more
Lucia
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lucia by: Karila
Shelves: book-club, mystery
**Leído para el Club de Lectura**
Otra vez le tocó a Gloria elegir libro, y por recomendación eligió la primer novela del detective Nero Wolfe.

Tengo especial gusto por las novelas de misterio y he leído a la mayoría de los detectives más famosos, pero por alguna razón nunca había oído nombrar a Nero Wolfe, así que esta fue una buena oportunidad de conocer esta saga.
Me pareció un poco floja la novela, no sé si será porque es la primera pero no me enganchó demasiado, creo que podría haber tenido la
...more
Thomas Paul
Aug 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nero Wolfe is one of the most famous detectives in fiction. Wolfe is a genius for solving murders but that is not what makes these books worth reading. It is Wolfe's eccentricities combined with the narration of Wolfe's assistant, Archie Goodwin. Rex Stout displays clever and funny writing (especially the dialogs), to keep the story moving. Nero Wolfe is, of course, the incredibly obese detective who rarely leaves his apartment in Manhattan but sends Archie Goodwin, (his hardboiled, skirt-chasin ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading the Detec...: January 2017 - Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout 85 48 Jan 16, 2017 09:55AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout 1 8 Apr 08, 2015 07:41PM  
  • Murder in E Minor
  • The Moving Target
  • Lord Peter Views the Body (Lord Peter Wimsey, #4)
  • A Man Lay Dead (Roderick Alleyn, #1)
  • The Big Sleep  and Other Novels
  • The Roman Hat Mystery (Ellery Queen Detective, #1)
  • They Found Him Dead (Inspector Hannasyde, #3)
  • A Stab in the Dark (Matthew Scudder, #4)
  • Mystery Mile (Albert Campion Mystery #2)
  • Thus Was Adonis Murdered (Hilary Tamar, #1)
41112
Rex Todhunter Stout (December 1, 1886 – October 27, 1975) was an American crime writer, best known as the creator of the larger-than-life fictional detective Nero Wolfe, described by reviewer Will Cuppy as "that Falstaff of detectives." Wolfe's assistant Archie Goodwin recorded the cases of the detective genius from 1934 (Fer-de-Lance) to 1975 (A Family Affair).

The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated
...more
More about Rex Stout...

Other Books in the Series

Nero Wolfe (1 - 10 of 47 books)
  • The League of Frightened Men (Nero Wolfe, #2)
  • The Rubber Band (Nero Wolfe, #3)
  • The Red Box (Nero Wolfe, #4)
  • Too Many Cooks (Nero Wolfe, #5)
  • Some Buried Caesar (Nero Wolfe, #6)
  • Over My Dead Body (Nero Wolfe, #7)
  • Where There's a Will (Nero Wolfe, #8)
  • Black Orchids (Nero Wolfe, #9)
  • Not Quite Dead Enough (Nero Wolfe, #10)
  • The Silent Speaker (Nero Wolfe, #11)

Share This Book

“[A] pessimist gets nothing but pleasant surprises, an optimist nothing but unpleasant.” 78 likes
“As long as I live I'll never forget the time he had a bank president pinched, or rather I did, on no evidence whatever except that the fountain pen on his desk was dry. I was never so relieved in my life as when the guy shot himself an hour later.” 4 likes
More quotes…