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The Second Confession (Nero Wolfe, #15)
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The Second Confession

(Nero Wolfe #15)

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  3,046 ratings  ·  180 reviews
When a millionaire businessman hires the sedentary detective to snoop on his daughter's boyfriend, Wolfe finds himself caught in a labyrinthine case involving drugged drinks, murderous debutantes, and a gangland boss. ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 1st 1995 by Bantam (first published September 6th 1949)
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Bill Kerwin
May 21, 2007 rated it really liked it

This first-class Nero Wolfe entertainment is the second of his three encounters with his own personal Professor Moriarty, Arnold Zeck.

Wolfe finds himself opposing Zeck once again when he is hired by business tycoon Sperling to investigate his prospective son-in-law Rony (a Zeck associate) whom Sperling believes may be a member of the Communist Party. Zeck is of course displeased, and soon nobody or no thing--not even Wolfe's precious orchids--is safe. Mercifully, the two masterminds soon come to
As a boy my introduction to mysteries came with The Hardy Boys. That was followed by Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and then Nero Wolfe. I always enjoyed a visit to Wolfe's brownstone on West 35th Street and spending time with Wolfe, his assistant Archie Goodwin, and his personal chef Fritz Brenner. I still enjoy these visits.

The Second Confession was published in 1949 during the cold war and fear of the red menace. James U. Sperling, chairman of the board of the Continental Mines Corporation,
COUNTDOWN: Mid-20th Century North American Crime
BOOK 77 (of 250)
A note by a reader inside the front cover of this library copy says, "Nearly all Stout's books on Nero are great but there are a few stinkers: this one one of them! It's LOUSY." What kind of low-life 1) writes notes on the pages of a library book and 2) reviews the book on the inside cover and 3) uses the term 'lousy'? I'd say it's a person with a terrible vocabulary and probably having a bad day, but that doesn't excuse vandalizin
Stacie  Haden
I just can't get enough Nero Wolfe. I may mourn when I've completed the series.

New York City, 1949
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been reading the Archie Goodwin mysteries (as I call them because it's the quality of Archie’s narration, not Wolfe’s deductive skills or idiosyncrasies that make the series great) at a rate of about two per year for some time, and I'm up to the 15th book. Apparently Rex Stout wrote his first Nero Wolfe book at 47 (a hopeful thought) and then dashed off a couple a year until he died in his 90s. So I figure I’m reading them at about the same rate as he produced them, and am hopeful I will st ...more
Nov 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
By 1949, Rex Stout had written fifteen crime novels featuring the homebody gardener/detective Nero Wolfe, and the no-nonsense series was a reliable source of entertaining puzzles.

The Wolfe books make good use of the body-mind split concept, with Wolfe—-an obese man who uses an elevator to go from floor to floor in his home—-pondering cases mentally at home while his younger assistant Archie Goodwin performs the legwork and all necessary seductions. The Second Confession, however, breaks from for
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Two and a half stars. I'm sure this book played a lot better in 1949, in the heat of the McCarthy witch hunts when otherwise rational people saw Communists under every bed and behind every movie or book they didn't personally like. However, I've read it once and a half, and listened to it once, and it just isn't his best work. I know Stout and Wolfe both became more political over the years (see also A Right to Die and a couple of others in the series) but something just seemed to be missing thi ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
another adventure for Archie and Wolfe. Although this time Wolfe leaves the brownstone
Martin Denton
Oct 22, 2022 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nerowolfe
All Nero Wolfe novels require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. Do we really believe that any PI, no matter how brilliant or fat, could get everyone from the District Attorney to members of the NYPD to all of the suspects in a murder case to all show up at his beck and call, only for one of them to be called out as the murderer?

No, Rex Stout doesn't trade precisely in realism, but his style is nevertheless pretty impeccable and the characters of Wolfe and his inner circle--particularl
Bryan Brown
Oct 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries
This is a solid entery in the Nero Wolfe books but it's most notable for once Nero and Archie unwittingly brush up against Nero's arch rival Mr. Z's operations. Wolfe is retained to finish a fairly pedestrian piece of work because he needed money. But in the process of working on the case he recieves a threatening call demanding that he drop the case. He refuses and in retaliation (view spoiler)

In the meantime Arch
cool breeze
Sep 05, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is probably the best Nero Wolfe mystery out of the first 15. The inclusion of Wolfe’s Moriarty, Zeck, benefits the novel with a darker, more serious undertone, even if he is mostly in the shadows offscreen.

From a historical perspective, the most interesting thing in this 1949 book is its recognition of the growing infiltration of American institutions by communists. It is all the more remarkable because Rex Stout was a leftist, yet he acknowledges that the infiltration is real, that it is a
Pamela Shropshire
Another delightful case solved by Archie and Wolfe, one that actually required Wolfe to leave the brownstone house and venture into the wilds of Westchester county and the realm of DA Cleveland Archer.

This time, Wolfe has been hired by a very successful capitalist to uncover the identity of a Communist very close to him - the only problem is that he has the wrong Communist in his sights.

Plenty of Archie’s flirtations and Wolfe’s obscureness.
Apr 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've read a few of these now after the Pulp Fiction Goodreads group introduced me to the splendid character of Nero Wolfe when they chose "Fer De Lance" as a monthly read one month.
This was by far my favourite so far - Wolfe's mysterious nemesis, Arnold Zeck adds a lot to the series.
This had a clever storyline albeit a bit dated now with its then current Communism related theme (Rex Stout himself was implicated by McCarthy).
I'm going straight on to the final book in the series featuring Zeck, I
Les Wilson
Nov 03, 2022 rated it really liked it
Another good one from Rex Stout. Well worth reading.
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Second Confession might just be my new favorite, favorite Nero Wolfe novel. I didn't think it was possible to love Wolfe and Goodwin more than I already did, but spending two days with this book proved that I had more love to give. I loved, loved, loved every minute of this mystery.

Mr. Sperling hires Wolfe as a private detective "to prove" that his daughter's boyfriend is a communist. Wolfe is reluctant to take on a case with those terms. He argues that what Sperling desires is not proof tha
Perry Whitford
Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
James U. Sperling, chairman of the board of the Continental Mines Corporation and a man who 'didn't bite ears off ... because he took whole heads and ate them bones and all', suspects that his youngest daughter is dating a communist, so he hires Nero Wolfe to produce the evidence.

Louis Rony may or may not be a communist, but as Wolfe soon discovers, if he is then that would be the least of his crimes. Much worse than that suspected affiliation is his connection with the only criminal Wolfe fears
Jul 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: detective, 1940s
I have always felt very noncomformist and clever for my notion that Archie is the interesting detective and Nero is the worst part of the Nero Wolfe books, so it was bracing to read in the introduction that, really, everybody thinks that. Well, the Wolfe books are what they are. I'm not especially proud of liking them, but I do. This is a good one.

Note: I read it on my phone, which is unusual for me. It worked pretty well.
Gilbert Stack
Aug 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Nero Wolfe is at it again in this excellent mystery and it’s a pleasure to watch him maneuver with clients, lawmen, and criminals alike. Hired essentially to discredit the suiter of a millionaire’s daughter, things get complicated when a criminal mastermind threatens Wolfe off the case by machinegunning Wolfe’s prized plant rooms. This gets Wolfe out of his beloved house to try and resolve matters, only to have the unwanted suiter murdered with Wolfe’s car. The client wants to know who the kille ...more
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a very enjoyable old style mystery written in 1949. It was given to me to read by a devout Rex Stout fan, and this is my first Nero Wolfe mystery. I would give it a 3.5 rounded up to a 4 for being literate and well-written. It is of it's time, with a lot of (now) offensive remarks, once considered cute, about women. And since it was written during the McCarthy era, "Commies" are not appreciated. But I enjoyed the writing and both Nero Wolfe and the narrator, Archie Goodwin, and would re ...more
Dec 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Not enough Purley and Cramer, otherwise I loved it.
Oct 27, 2022 rated it it was ok
My fourth Nero Wolfe mystery, and the only dullish one so far. Vague plot with confusing motives. Hasn't aged well since being published in 1949: overt sexism, "Commies", etc. ...more
Christine Gilbert
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Misogynistic but always a fun read

Much like the traditions of Sam Spade and others, there is always a dame, a cocky Secretary (in this case Archie) and the ever do quirky detective.
Diane K.
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's rather hard to believe that, following publication of this book, Rex Stout was accused of communist activity. Apparently the accusation centered on his being one of the editors of a communist magazine. Facts in the matter: Rex Stout helped to found the magazine, and contributed some articles, but was never an editor. Once he discovered that people on staff were working to make the magazine communist-oriented, he and several others fought hard to prevent it. When they realized that their str ...more
Jeff Bleyle
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nero and Archie again encounter their own version of Moriarty in Arnold Zeck in this second book of the Zeck trilogy. Recommended indeed!
Christopher Rush
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nero-wolfe
Though all Wolfe stories are different to some degree, this was clearly the most distinct in the canon thus far: Wolfe not only leaves his house (which he has done in other stories, to be sure), but his house is attacked by the mysterious person quickly becoming an arch-nemesis to Wolfe. The pacing is much more rapid than most Wolfe books: we have a sense of urgency from the beginning that drives through the first half of the novel. Even when the pace slows down around the 3/4 mark, we still fee ...more
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would give this one 4.5 stars if I could, just because the plot was a bit too convoluted to follow easily, but it gains back that half a star for enjoyable insights into the Wolfe/Goodwin relationship. This is the second book with Wolfe's arch nemesis, Zeck, or as Archie calls him, "The man whose name I don't remember." I very much enjoyed Wolfe's efforts to make sure he protects Archie from this potential criminal mastermind, and what Zeck does to Wolfe shows that he's right to be protective. ...more
Mar 24, 2008 added it
Shelves: mystery
He kept me guessing right until the end. So many suspects, so many red herrings, and it really could have been anybody! I like how that frustrates the detectives as much as it frustrated me as reader. Lots of great Archie Goodwin moments in this one!
Though it doesn't usually matter in what order you read these books, I got the feeling that it would have helped if I'd read And Be A Villain first, as it refers heavily to events that took place in that book. Even without the background, I was still
Feb 14, 2016 rated it liked it
I found it difficult to become involved in this one. Perhaps had the story had more velocity. Things didn't feel like a good old Nero Wolfe mystery until the second half, and it seemed that even Archie's part was a bit subdued.
Stout wrote enough winners to justify one that I felt only so-so about for me to remain a fan that will continue reading these delightful old mysteries.
Vicki Cline
May 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nero-wolfe
Wolfe crosses paths with his nemesis Zeck again, and gets his rooftop greenhouse shot up. But later Zeck apologizes (sort of) and pays Wolfe for solving the murder of one of his henchmen. This is the first Nero Wolfe book where I was able to guess the murderer.
Sheila Beaumont
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The second book in the Zeck Trilogy. Arnold Zeck is Nero Wolfe's counterpart to Sherlock Holmes' Moriarty. This story is notable for the fact that homebody Wolfe actually leaves his house to investigate a case, something he hardly ever does.
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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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“She had been a pleasant surprise. From what her father had said I had expected an intellectual treat in a plain wrapper, but the package was attractive enough to take your attention off of the contents....she was not in any way hard to look at, and those details which had been first disclosed when she appeared in her swimming rig were completely satisfactory.” 3 likes
“When, sometime around my fortieth birthday, I was struck by the urge to try to write a novel, I was vastly comforted to learn that Rex Stout didn’t write his first Nero Wolfe tale until he was forty-seven, and that he proceeded to write them right up to his death at the age of eighty-eight. It was considerably less comforting to learn that he typically completed a novel in thirty-eight days, and that he always got it right on the first try. P. G. Wodehouse once said, “Stout’s supreme triumph was the creation of Archie Goodwin.” That’s how I’ve always felt about it, too. When I returned those first Rex Stout books to my librarian, I said to her, “Do you have any more of these Archie Goodwin stories?” She smiled, I recall, and said, “Why, yes. Dozens.” 2 likes
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