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Too Many Cooks (Nero Wolfe, #5)
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Too Many Cooks

(Nero Wolfe #5)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  4,591 ratings  ·  272 reviews
The guest at a gathering of the greatest chefs in the world, Nero Wolfe must practice his own trade--sleuthing--when he discovers that a murderer is in their midst.
Paperback, 179 pages
Published November 1st 1995 by Bantam (first published August 17th 1938)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  4,591 ratings  ·  272 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
Jun 15, 2007 rated it really liked it

A fine Nero Wolfe, in which the great detective is invited to the annual meeting of a society of the greatest chefs of the world where--of course--a murder occurs.

One unfortunate flaw: this novel was published in 1938, and its treatment of the black characters--all servants of course--contains stereotypes that will seem racist to most 21st century readers.

Still, Nero Wolfe himself treats them with dignity and even courtesy, and his attitude goes a long way toward redeeming the book.
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have a confession to make: after finishing the book I added yet another item to my ever-growing list of things-to-do-before-I-die. In this case I really want to try saucisse minuit:

saucisse minuit

Some explanation is in order; I also would like to apologize to the people already familiar with Nero Wolfe as they are already know everything I will say here. The eccentric genius detective also happened to be a gourmet, among other things. His cook, Fritz Brenner is a Swiss whose cooking Wolfe calls "not
Charles  van Buren
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a fun banquet

Review of Kindle edition
Publication date:July 9, 2010
205 pages

This is an early Nero Wolfe novel, the fifth which Rex Stout wrote. It seems to me that Stout had yet to hit his stride and fully develop Nero Wolfe's potential. In some ways this novel reads much like bad Agatha Christie. However, that's my opinion. Agatha Christie herself wrote:
"I have enjoyed a great many of his books. Archie is a splendid character to have invented
Sep 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Having spent the better part of my summer on a detective-novel binge, I'm still amazed that I had never heard of Rex Stout or his famous detective Nero Wolfe until this point. Turns out, they're Kind of a Big Deal. As my professor put it: "Nero Wolfe's fans are the detective fiction equivalent of Trekkies." There are Nero Wolfe websites. Nero Wolfe fan clubs. Nero Wolfe cookbooks. (I am not joking about that last one) He's basically to America what Miss Marple and Poirot were to England, and ...more
Jun 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Not just vintage Wolfe but classic Wolfe. Aside from being a first-rate murder mystery, this novel from 1938 is remarkable for its handling of issues of racial prejudice. The setting is a resort hotel in South Carolina where the waiters and cooks are black, though the managers and guests are white -- all perfectly typical for America in the 1930s. However, invisible as the service staff would ordinarily be, merely assumed as part of the social landscape, in this story our attention is drawn to ...more
Oct 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Nero Wolfe rarely leaves his brownstone on West 35th Street in New York City. In the fifth book in the series he has promised to be the keynote speaker at a gathering of top chefs, Les Quinze Maitres, at the Kanawha Spa in West Virginia. Of course he would not make such a journey without his assistant Archie Goodwin. The opening scene is quite humorous with Archie standing on the platform smoking a cigarette and Wolfe bellowing at him to get back on the train, fearful that the train will leave ...more
Gary Sundell
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A neat mystery with Wolfe and Archie away from the NYC brownstone. Wolfe and Archie are away from the brownstone in the next book in the series as well.
Jan 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
You know, I don't really care all that much about the mystery part of any Nero Wolfe mystery. Some are good, some are better, some tease, some deliver, some succeed, a few fail. I don't care cause a couple hundred pages of Archie and Nero going back and forth is always, always worth it. Archie with his easy going wise-guy banter and Nero with his prickly erudite blustering, fussing over his orchids, salivating over his supper, sipping his beer, closing his eyes, twitching his lips. Well, that ...more
Nov 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned, mysteries

Nero Wolfe leaves his brownstone in NYC to attend a gastronomical gathering as the guest of honor. During the event, one of the chefs is murdered and Wolfe gets chivvied into investigating.
Jul 27, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1938, this is the fifth book in the Nero Wolfe series and the second one I have ever read, the first being The Red Box.

Too Many Cooks was another enjoyable foray into the idiosyncratic world of the irascible, inscrutable, quirky, larger-than-life Wolfe as narrated by his able assistant, the world weary, hard bitten, cynical and slyly humorous Archie.

Whilst another supremely enjoyable read, I thought Too Many Cooks was slightly less successful than The Red Box. Whilst following the
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This series continues to amuse. Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe continue to needle each other with an affection that neither would admit to if pressed. There are two issues worth mentioning.

First, there are a *lot* of characters. There are all the cooks, and then all of the cooks have brought guests. There are also characters who are neither cooks nor guests and who also are not employees of Nero Wolfe. Their names also needed to be logged. At first I thought I wouldn't be able to keep them
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wolfe speechifying saves the day! I always enjoy Wolfe being forced to leave the house, and this is a good one.
Jack Heath
5 Stars, no lower it to 3 for the distasteful language and thoughtlessness portrayed. The "N" word abounds, but so do "coloured" and disparaging remarks against Chinese Americans. Collectively, among the worst for this I have read or experienced. There's even a blackface episode. In audio, the first use of the "N" word hits the listener like an unexpected sledgehammer. Nero Wolfe, a minor offender in comparison to Archie and a sheriff from West Virginia, turns the tables on the major ones by ...more
Dakota McCoy
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
AMAZING. Laughed out loud multiple times. Highly recommend this to any mystery fans- the best Nero Wolfe book of the series so far!
Bryan Brown
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries
The fifth Nero Wolfe book should probably come with a warning for modern readers. Of course, it's not fair to apply modern sensibilities to previous generations, although that is fairly common to do. But because of modern sensibilities there are going to be many readers who will be shocked at the causal use of, now derogatory, terms for Asians, various Europeans, and African Americans, that can be found in this book.

I recommend you read it anyway and substitute whatever words you find
Pamela Shropshire
This is one of the best, and certainly one of the most unique, installments in the Nero Wolfe canon. Wolfe actually leaves his sancta sanctorem and travels to a West Virginia resort for a meeting of gourmet chefs. After one of the sumptuous dinners, the gourmets taste nine versions of Sauce Printemps (which, if I recall my high school French, means Spring Sauce?) which contains nine herbs and seasonings; in each version, one seasoning is omitted. The tasters enter the dining room, one at a time, ...more
Ebenezer Arvigenius
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
There are few pre-modern American crime writers that can reasonably be counted among the "classics". Rex Stout and his Nero Wolfe are certainly amongst those.

Here, Wolfe travels to a meeting of the "quinze maîtres", the 15 best cooks in the world, to save the honour of the American cuisine. Unsurprisingly, he becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. If he wants to catch his train in time he will have to solve this mystery - and fast.

This is Stout at his very best. Archie Goodwin is witty and
May 23, 2013 rated it liked it
As a big Nero Wolfe fan, I expected to find this one a very enjoyable read. I read a lot of older stuff, and I am accustomed to overlooking certain racist and sexist language we find appalling today. But this book is so full of objectionable words that it really takes away from the reading experience. I just cringed when I read the casual references to coons and shines, not to mention the frequency of the N word. It is fractionally redeemed by a scene with Nero Wolfe speaking to some black male ...more
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Delightful fun! As this mystery is in the setting of the Les Quinze Maîtres ("The Fifteen Masters" — master chefs, that is), which is a gathering that takes place to showcase fine cuisine, be prepared to: 1) look a few items up, and 2) drool.

It is the usual great fun but in a different setting. Oh, and of course there is a murder that Nero Wolfe must solve with the help of his delightful sidekick, Archie Goodwin.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another great read from Rex Stout. Nero is so far out of his normal orbit, but there is good food, so we know why he went. I remember being a little shocked when I first read this almost 50 years ago and I can't help wondering what today's snowflakes would think about it. They might want to ban it, but it's good to remember the attitudes that were common in the 30's and 40's and hope we do better today.
Jennifer Berg
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I simply love Nero Wolfe. This is one of the rare occasions where the great detective steps out of his comfort zone, and he's just as fantastic as ever.
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
This one started off really slowly, and though I guess part of its intent was to portray Wolfe as a man above petty racism, some of the language and attitudes in this one bothered me (even granting it was set in 1937). It did leave me with a smile on my face in the end.
G. Salter
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, classic, mystery
When someone builds a story around a specialized topic, the story frequently comes across as boring and filled with tedious information dumps.

Stout does a great job of avoiding those traps and telling a story centered on the specialized world of gourmet cooking while making it all seem exciting and powerful.
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Worst Nero Wolf I have ready of probably 20 of books from the series. Really disappointing how this book turned. The racial comments were simply not ok.
Of course, a hole in the ice offers peril only to those who go skating. (Nero Wolfe; p. 137)

The tag line on my edition of Rex Stout's Too Many Cooks (1938) says: Nero Wolfe steps out to dine with a dozen cooks and a killer. And "steps out" he does--out of the brownstone (which is a miracle in and of itself), into a train (a moving vehicle!), and out of New York State. He has been invited as an honored guest to attend the scheduled meeting of Les Quinze Maitres, the Fifteen Masters, a group of
Lukasz Pruski
Jan 31, 2015 rated it liked it
Rex Stout's "Too Many Cooks" is my fourth recent reread of a book in the Nero Wolfe series about the fat genius of detection and his extremely able and worldly assistant, Archie Goodwin. When I first read this book, about 45 years ago, I was very impressed. Not really so now, but the reread has been worthwhile for reasons different than the plot.

Mr. Wolfe almost never leaves his house, yet we find him and Archie on a train traveling to Kanawha Spa, W.Va., for the meeting of Les Quinze Maitres,
Debbie Maskus
Mar 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Rex Stout's style reminds me of Raymond Chandler in the language and vocabulary. Of course, Chandler and Stout have created two different types of detectives, and I enjoy each writer's creation. Chandler writes of California, while Stout's Nero Wolfe operates from New York. I enjoyed learning about haute cuisine and Archie Goodwin's every man approach to the festivities. Archie Goodwin relates the proceedings in a manner of the journal of Doctor Watson explaining the cases of Sherlock Holmes. ...more
Sep 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015, mystery
This is one of the earlier books of Rex Stout and I didn't really enjoy it much. It seemed wordier than his later books. There were a lot of cooks (too many cooks), all with foreign names and it was difficult to keep them straight. The book was first published in 1938, but there was little indication of the Great Depression. However, there was a good use of the 'n' word when talking about the black characters. So I wasn't impressed. I gave the book 3 stars because a bad Nero Wolfe mystery is ...more
Jun 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is the first book of Nero Wolfe that captured everything I love about the books. The characters are exciting, there is plenty of talk of food and words, the case was interesting, and the dialog was delicious.
Beth E
Mar 29, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: cozy-mystery
This book is disgustingly racist. It goes on about both black and Chinese people while being very very snobbish about famous chefs and their signature dishes. Yuck.
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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

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)
  • 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)
“What the tongue has promised, the body must submit to.” 13 likes
“Enforced courtesy is worse than none.” 7 likes
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