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And Be a Villain

(Nero Wolfe #13)

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  3,755 ratings  ·  195 reviews
Radio talk show host Madeline Fraser's worst nightmare comes true when one of her on-air guests collapses at the mike after drinking a glass of the sponsor's beverage.
Paperback, 246 pages
Published February 1st 1994 by Crimeline (first published September 27th 1948)
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4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,755 ratings  ·  195 reviews

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Bill  Kerwin
Jun 16, 2007 rated it really liked it

A man is poisoned during a live radio soft drink commercial, and Wolfe dispatches Goodwin to persuade the popular talk show host to hire Wolfe to solve this notorious crime, thus ending the bad publicity. (For once, he is eager for work: he has a large income tax bill to pay.)

This 1948 Rex Stout classic features Wolfe's first encounter with master criminal Arnold Zeck, Wolfe's Moriarty. If you have not read any of Nero Wolfe's adventures, this, followed by the other two books featuring Zeck--The
Nov 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Nero Wolfe needs money yet again. I know I sound like a broken record, but this is how the majority of the series' books start. He sends Archie Goodwin to see a popular radio talk show host Madeline Fraser (think Oprah Winfrey before the era of TV) to accept his services in investigating a sensational murder which happened recently right in the middle of the show: a guest drank some soft drink from the show sponsors and fell dead. The murder seems to be completely random as there was no way to i ...more
Steven Walle
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Rex Stout did it again. This is a detective novel featuring one of the best detectives Nero Wolfe who is an arm chair detective who never leaves his home to solve a case. All of the foot work is done by his brash, wise guy side kick Archy Goodwin. I recommend all of Rex Stout's books very highly.
Enjoy and Be Blessed.
Oct 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Usually when you hire a man to do something he thinks you're the boss. When you hire Wolfe he thinks he's the boss."

I cannot remember when I first read a Nero Wolfe book. I remember browsing in a local bookstore and I would have been in high school. The bookstore is long gone and I am getting close to retirement age so it has been a few decades. Despite the passage of time I still enjoy picking up one of Rex Stout's books and being transported back. To enter Wolfe's brownstone on West 35th Stre
First, let me just say that when I was 16 and read this I never even registered that Archie Goodwin is ageist. At 29, his comments about no women over 30 being worth a look gave me a strong desire to give him a good "talking to." Anyway, on to the book. Honestly, And Be a Villian: A Nero Wolfe Novel disappointed me. I will re-read at least one more of Rex Stout's books, but I have a terrible suspicion that the Nero Wolfe series will go on the list of things that didn't hold up for me over time. ...more
Never have I downgraded a book 2 stars for ONE sentence before; but:
Archie: "I am not incapable of using force on a woman, since after all men have never found anything else to use on them with any great success when it comes right down to it..." -- Really, Rex? Really?

This sentence was so offensive, that I would have downgraded any other book automatically to 1 star. It is, however, Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series and as such I can't go below a 3 as much as I am turned off by the violent misogyn
Stacie  Haden
I give this one five Nero Wolfe sized stars. I love this series and I'm savoring them as my "go to" when I need a guarantee of a book that will keep my rapt attention and bring me out loud laughs. Solid, all the way around! We also get a teaser of Zeck- Nero's nemesis! You can read Rex Stouts books in any order, but I heard that you would want to read 13-15 sequentially, for this reason.
Vicki Cline
May 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nero-wolfe
While solving the murders in this book, Wolfe crosses paths with a master criminal, who figures in the next two books as well as this one. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Dec 25, 2013 added it
Shelves: favorites, mysteries
This book was the perfect antidote to readers malaise. After finishing a Nobel Prize winner's dense (and seemingly endless) novel, I knew I needed to return to an old friend and that was a Nero Wolfe mystery.

I have probably read this book five times, but I never tire of Nero Wolfe's grumpiness, Archie's cheekiness, and Fritz's cuisine (I am now absolutely longing for corn fritters!).

Stout's Arnold Zeck novels are among my favorites of the many Nero Wolfe mysteries; he is akin to Sherlock Holmes
Jul 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Was recommended to me as witty, but I didn't it find it particularly so. It was my first Rex Stout and it was OK, but I don't really see what the whole underlying Nero Wolfe set-up adds to the genre.
May 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-star
Another fun read from Rex Stout. It's not much of a mystery, but that's not really why one reads a Nero Wolfe book, is it? The cameo by Arnold Zeck was interesting. I've heard he appears in other books as a kind of nemesis for Wolfe.
Jul 27, 2018 rated it liked it
A radio show guest is murdered live on the air, poisoned after drinking some of the sponsor's beverage. Was the guest the intended victim or did the bottle end up in the wrong person's hand? What was the motive? While there were a few places the plot bogged down, it rarely did so while Nero Wolfe was in the detecting mode. We listened to this on audiobook downloaded from Overdrive and were amused every time it told us to change the cassette or to flip the cassette or hit reverse. Could these dir ...more
Sep 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
AND BE A VILLAIN. (1948). Rex Stout. ****.
This is a Nero Wolfe Adventure, and, in my opinion, one of the best. A guest on a radio show collapses on the microphone table after drinking from a bottle of one of the sponsor’s products. He is soon pronounced dead of cyanide poisoning. Since a total of eight bottles of the product had been consumed by members of the radio crew, the activity involved was directed at how the guest was the one who drank the poisoned one. Was he the actual target? Who els
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Tralala, joy is in the air! I actually came across a Nero Wolfe mystery I have neither read before, nor seen filmed, and a cracking good read it is. Having been disappointed in the last case or two that I have revisited lately in audiobook format, it was an enormous relief to discover I have not outgrown the pantagruelian private eye. In 1948, when this first came out, the power of radio was enormous. Imagine then that a talk-show guest dies on the air while sipping the sponsor's bevvy! Live--so ...more
Nov 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting. There is a lot of personality, and quick dialog. The characters are a bit cartoonish for my taste, and don't feel real. I can see how one could grow into them. I like the bits of humor, but in the mystery genre I'd rather see keen observations of humanity, and those were just missing.
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
always a joy to read Rex Stout and enter the world of Nero and Archie.
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, mysteries
Archie & Wolfe were up to their standard forms and this book introduces the criminal mastermind Arnold Zeck (Stout's version of Moriarty) who appears in several other later books in the series.
Diane K.
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I would give this book more stars if I could. This is Stout at his best. A marvelous story, excellent characters, and a fine mystery.

Some time ago, when my paperback copy had finally worn out, I managed to obtain a hardback. I was astonished to find that it was a first edition! I was even more astonished to see that the infamous beverage of the story was called Starlite, not Hi-Spot! I can't recall where I learned the information surrounding this; no doubt in one of the background books that I r
Alexis Neal
Jun 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, mystery
Wolfe needs money. After all, those orchids don't pay for themselves. So, in a virtually unprecedented move, he actually solicits a job. Well-known radio host Madeline Fraser is in a pickle. During each broadcast of her hugely successful radio show, she and her various guests indulge in a bottle of Hi-Spot (a show sponsor). It's a big hit with the sponsor and the public. Until, that is, radio guest Cyril Orchard winds up drinking a big ol' glass of cyanide . . . on the air. The police are at a l ...more
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe are at it again! In another fun hardboiled detective novel that blends humor and mystery in a way that is Rex Stout's own, this curiously mismatched dynamic duo once again solve a case that leaves the 1940's police at a loss. I have never yet found a Nero Wolfe novel penned by Rex Stout that I didn't like, and this one is no exception.

When a guest on a popular radio program is poisoned by an advertiser's product, Nero Wolfe finds his expertise in high demand. Everyo
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, reread
This is one of the earliest Wolfe books that truly feels like a Wolfe book, and that definitely factors in to my rating. Honestly, this isn't a perfect book. Like most of the early corpus, the sexism pretty much shrieks off the page here, and neither Archie nor Wolfe comes out looking like an untarnished hero (but then, that is not the point of either character, and especially not of Wolfe).

But. But. There's some solid Wolfe-Archie interplay, Cramer plays a fairly substantial role, and we get t
Bob Mackey
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
I've been going through the Nero Wolfe series in chronological order, and while all of them have their charms, Stout certain has his lesser novels. And And Be a Villain struck me as a markedly listless outing for the author's famous plus-size detective. That said, the subject matter is somewhat inspired, and serves as a nice little time capsule: A murder occurs in radioland, causing Archie and Wolfe to enter this uncharted territory for the sake of paying their bills. Stout's examination of this ...more
Colin Smith
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this adventure with Nero Wolfe, the quintessential armchair detective, and his assistant/secretary/accountant/dogsbody Archie Goodwin. Wolfe picks up a case of cyanide poisoning that has the police baffled. The intended victim seems to have been a tipster who was a guest on a popular radio show discussing his racing tips. But everyone at the radio station seem to get along, so no-one is pointing fingers. But as Nero Wolfe questions the parties, and, with Archie's help, digs deeper, all ...more
I adore the Nero Wolfe mysteries--and they are terrific audiobooks. Wolfe's and his sidekick Archie Goodwin's obsession with good food and fine flowers actually runs second to their obsession with integrity, logic, and clear-eyed thinking. These are the qualities that make the books such comforts: Wolfe is a person fully in control of his environment -- an increasingly appealing fantasy for me -- but he is also someone who can extract the truth from witnesses simply by the force of his reputatio ...more
Text Addict
What do I think? I think I need to examine why I can accept the misogyny/sexism of the Wolfe/Goodwin duo just as a dubious character quirk. Is it that it's probably accurate that the early 20th century was full of people who regarded the opposite sex as potentially dangerous aliens rather then fellow human beings? "Men of their time" and all that?

Eh, that's too deep for a hot Friday afternoon.

Stout wrote damn clever mysteries, even though his clever heroes were also sexist twits.
Jul 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
A guest on a radio talk show collapses (cyanide) when he drinks the sponsor's juice drink. Nero Wolfe, short of cash as per usual, sends Archie Goodwin to the studio hoping he will be hired to solve the crime. He is, of course, and as always he uses the police to best advantage (to do his leg work) but solves the crime on his own. In The final scene, I'm not giving anything away here, the killer self-incriminates through Wolfe's adroit questioning.
This recording was transferred from cassette tapes, and the constant change-over remarks are annoying, breaking up the story; and this book in particular has the sounds of coming from an old tape, sort of patchy sounds.

Interesting bits about life in those days, including filing tax returns in March, in this story about a death on a very popular radio program. Was the poison meant for the host or the guest?
One of the finest Nero Wolfe cases, considered as a mystery. The motive and method for murder are very believable, and yet the distractions grow out of that motive and method so naturally it couldn't have been any other way. Archie performs splendidly in his sphere, Wolfe in his, as they always do. Also, the only arch-criminal in the canon is introduced in this book. Not one to miss if you like reading Archie-Wolfe stories.
Feb 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
A guest is poisoned during a popular daytime radio show. The police seem to have no leads, and Wolfe needs a hefty fee to offset his income tax payments. There are only a few people who could have poisoned the soft drink bottle. Then Wolfe discovers that the bottle was probably not meant for the victim at all. Archie chafes at Wolfe's inactivity in this one, but Wolfe comes through to find the murderer.
Ray Otus
Dec 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
I enjoyed this one right up to (but not including) the end. I don't think I buy the explanation for some of the murders ... but hey, I'm no Nero Wolfe. This book is notable for introducing the shadowy Mr. Zeck, Wolfe's archenemy. His "Moriarty" if you will. (Though apparently Mr. Z. called Nero anonymously, or rather pseudonymously, on previous cases.)
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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

Other books in the series

Nero Wolfe (1 - 10 of 47 books)
  • Fer-de-Lance (Nero Wolfe, #1)
  • 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)
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