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Murder by the Book

(Nero Wolfe #19)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  3,019 ratings  ·  192 reviews
It wasn't Leonard Dykes's writing style that offended. But something in his unpublished tome seemed to lead everyone who read it to a very unhappy ending. Now four people are dead, including the unfortunate author himself, and the police think Nero Wolfe is the only man who can close the book on this novel killer. So the genius sleuth directs his sidekick to set a trap… an ...more
Paperback, 246 pages
Published September 1st 1995 by Bantam (first published October 12th 1951)
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Average rating 4.11  · 
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 ·  3,019 ratings  ·  192 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
May 28, 2007 rated it really liked it

The only people who know the contents of an unpublished novel (the author, the publisher's reader, the typist of the manuscript) have been murdered, the novel has apparently been destroyed, and Nero Wolfe is determined to discover why--despite the fact that neither Wolfe nor Archie has the slightest clue where to begin.

This is one of the more interesting features of the novel: what do detectives do when they don't even know where to start? How does a professional go blundering around, trying to
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Inspector Cramer is a friend/archenemy of both Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. When he shows up at Wolfe's office asking for his opinion about a list of strange names found at a murdered man's place it comes as a great surprise for both detectives. Nero Wolfe does not feel like offering one, so pissed off Cramer leaves. Later on when a wealthy Illinois businessman hires the detective to find a murderer of his only daughter - it seems to be hit-and-run accident to the police - Nero Wolfe is the on ...more
Reading a book can be fatal. Or in this case reading an unpublished manuscript. That is the premise of the 19th entry in the Nero Wolfe series. Three people have died violent deaths and it takes Wolfe to see the connection.

The story opens with a visit to Nero Wolfe's office by Inspector Cramer. The body of Leonard Dykes; a clerk with the law firm of Corrigan, Phelps, Kustin and Briggs; was pulled from the river. When the police searched Dykes apartment they found a list of names tucked in a book
COUNTDOWN: Mid-20th Century North American Crime
BOOK 38 (of 250) AWARD: Favorite Book about Books
Books about books are usually disappointing: the book inside the book is most often non-existent so we can't reference it or find it anywhere. And that book is usually one in which some kind of big secret of the universe is revealed and scholars the world over are looking for it. But we never actually find/get to understand that book/that secret, so this sub-genre is usually disappointing to me. But
May 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, dectective
I love all the Nero Wolfe books I've ever read. Archie's voice is an amazing blend of smarts and charm. I admit that I guessed the murder wrong, even though I've read it before, but while I love the mystery aspect of Stout's books, it's Archie's voice and the character interactions that really make them shine.
Oct 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-suspense
You had me at book-centered mystery.

A clerk in a law office writes a mysterious manuscript, and a few months later, his body is pulled from the East River. Then the only person known to have read the manuscript—a young editorial assistant at the publishing house that rejected it—turns up dead, the victim of a hit-and-run. Soon after, the typist who had been hired to make a copy of the manuscript is helped to her untimely death. One by one, everyone connected with this piece of writing is being
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, reread
This was a reread, a palate cleanser after the rush of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, because:

1. There is never a bad time for Nero Wolfe, and
2. It's the rainy season in Los Angeles (January 18-28, roughly)

This book is one of my favorites in the series. It's sharp, it's got the usual moments of humor, it's got great Wolfe-Archie interplay (and for the Archie/Saul shipper in me, there's a terrific moment when Archie explains that Saul would totally be the best US President ever if you just up
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-reread
This one often gets called one of the best Wolfes, but for me it's too uneven. First 100 pages are kind of snoozy (even with three murders) and oddly paced, and the scene with Archie and the "girls" from the office was a little dated and annoying. But Archie's trip to LA (where it rains the whole time), the scenes with Mrs. Potter (more than Archie can handle/understand), and the climactic scene with the murderer confronted by the client are all terrific. Lotsa orchids in this one.
Pamela Shropshire
I think this is definitely one of the best Nero Wolfe novels. It’s right in the sweet spot, published in the early 1950s, when both Wolfe’s and Archie’s characters were fully realized and the supporting characters were all securely set into their respective roles.

A gentleman from Illinois named Mr. John Wellman hires Wolfe to investigate his daughter’s murder. This leads to a triple-murder investigation. The first death was of a man named Dykes who worked at a prestigious law firm that had rece
Jul 14, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When Inspector Cramer calls on Nero Wolfe to for help on the unsolved murder of law clerk Leonard Dykes, Wolfe can't contribute much. However, things heat up again a few months later when a grieving father hires Wolfe to investigate the hit-and-run death of his book editor daughter, and the detective quickly finds a link between the two cases.
With that, the chase is on for Wolfe and the police as the murders appear to be tied to an unpublished novel; anyone connected to it dies. During a canvass
Bryan Brown
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries
This time Rex Stout portrays the seedy underbelly of the publishing world. OK, not really, but that is how the book starts. An acquisitions editor is murdered and her father asks Nero Wolfe for help. Their investigation seems to be at a complete stand still until a typist is also murdered. The chase is then on with Archie as the bloodhound and Nero well... sitting behind his desk.

My favorite quote is from Archie who after working with a woman who he particularly admired asked someone if he want
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A gem!
Alexis Neal
Jun 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, mystery
Who is Baird Archer? The police can't find anyone who's ever met him, talked to him, or seen him. As far as anyone can figure, he doesn't exist. The police--and Nero Wolfe--only know two things: (1) a manuscript ostensibly written by Baird Archer was submitted to and rejected by a New York publisher, and (2) everyone who's ever read the manuscript is now dead. First, there was Leonard Dikes, a clerk at a law firm, who had the name 'Baird Archer' written on a scrap of paper in his apartment. He w ...more
E.M. Lynley
Jul 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, mystery
One of my favorite Nero Wolfe books.
First off, I absolutely love Michael Pritchard's performance and to me he *is* Archie. He imbues the right amount of wit and capability to Archie and the Nero Wolfe books are simply designed for audio thanks to Archie's strong character and the amusing first-person perspective.

I enjoy stories about writing/publishing and legal topics, and this one combines both. I won't rehash the plot, but the glimpse we get of how the law practice where all the suspects work
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a Wolfe/Goodwin fan and thoroughly enjoyed rereading this one; which I consider one of the best. Plenty of twists and turns as Wolfe tackles a mystery with apparently no client or evidence other than connection with a manuscript has meant death to three people. Great fun with the usual cast plus interesting suspects and supporting characters.
Got the ebook as a deal, re-read Aug 2014. Solid 3+ rating, not one of Nero's best, and Archie is just moments too late for one person.

Re-read April 2020. Still good for 3ish stars.
May 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: via-library
Fun read. Interesting to see your standard murder mystery through the prism of the author's day and age.
Eesh that 9 page confession letter.... I totally skimmed that.... Just to get yo the section where Nero sets out his logic of who, what and when.
Not earth shaking but will let you kill some time enjoyably. Archie is a charmer.
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, owned
Very good full length mystery. I didn't have any idea of who the guilty party was until Wolfe does his big reveal at the end & Archie was in fine form. ...more
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cozy-mysteries, 2019
This book showcases Archie and Wolfe at their best, and the mystery is fantastic, too.
Jan 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the second of eleven Nero Wolfe books I'm gathering this season in order to complete my collection. It was written about 15 years after the one I read a few days ago, The League of Frightened Men, and is quite different in style and tone. It's the style most people think of when they think of a Rex Stout book, that is, if they do at all. Much less prosey, much more Archie's story. In a way, this is a strength, because if Archie is telling us a story, despite his near-perfect memory, he's ...more
Nan Silvernail
Mar 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
A father from Peoria comes to Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin to hire them to solve his daughter's murder. She was a reader at a publishing firm. Her last letter said she was going to meet up with an author willing to pay to know how to make a rejected book better. The problem is that the author used a fictitious pen name. But Nero Wolfe has seen that name once before ... on a list stuck in a dead man's book.


Cover Art - Interesting. The
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Reading the ones on my shelf. If you know a book has been written revealing your terrible secret would you murder those who have read it to prevent it getting out to the public? Someone seems to have that in mind in this Nero Wolfe story. Archie is 2 minutes too late at one point and that angers him. A good Nero Wolfe.
2018. I have just realised one of the great things about Rex Stout: when describing a character he doesn't. He comments on something important about the person and the physical thi
May 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
You read Rex Stout and you keep wondering how such a nice guy could be part of one of those organizations that want to rule the world.
His crime fiction is all about the positive side of individualism and the stories are full of conservative morals.
In this particular one, Archie falls for a married woman - a little too plump, a little too short - but never makes a move.
And Wolfe, the essence of the sucessful individualism, the guy that beats the Estate, gives us his usual show. This one is part
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm sure I've read this before.

Rex Stout's Nero and Archie are my favorite mystery characters of all time. Archie is a "wag" and Nero is a genius who manages to exert pressure on the world using only his brain.
Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
apparently Archie Goodwin is this years go-to fictional character for comfort reading for me (see #49). You just can't go wrong with this series. At least I can't.
May 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: series, read-audio
Wow, when lawyers go bad. Nero, Archie and the guys have to figure out which one of them committed the murders.
Diane K.
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorites. Partly because a book is involved, but also an excellent mystery and good characters, including one of Rex Stout's best: the one and only Mrs. Potter!

This one is a delight to read all the way through. When Rex Stout is hot, his prose is pure joy. This one contains what I think is one of the best passages in the canon. The investigation has stalled and Wolfe decides that the only way to get it going again will be for Archie to develop intimate relationships with some
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another fun Nero Wolfe mystery, most especially because Wolfe seems to be flummoxed for most of the story. We don't often see that so it's a treat when The Great Man is as much in the dark as the police. Two highlights of this one are the interactions with Inspector Cramer who, for once, isn't raving mad at Wolfe about absolutely everything, and the final scene where all the threads come together. I'd actually figured it out for myself this time but not all of the details, just whodunit. The big ...more
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun mystery with plenty of twists and red herrings for those who enjoy a mystery of the Agatha Christie genre. Nero Wolfe is an unforgettable character but just as important is Archie Goodwin. Archie is the Watson to Nero's Holmes but Archie is so much more important to the stories than Watson ever was. Wolfe is something of a recluse so Archie does most of the heavy lifting. Wolfe gathers all the intel, then thinks (remember Hercule Poirot saying to use those gray cells?) about it all ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Cover & fix narrator 5 19 Jun 06, 2020 02:32PM  

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Rex Todhunter Stout (1886 – 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 Best Mystery Series of t

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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