The Final Deduction
by Rex Stout
  

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

a Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin mystery

Viking: New York, 1961
184 pages
  

Collins Crime Club: London, 1962
192 pages

January 2011

  
Archie Goodwin's wit

Rex Stout's The Final Deduction has a plot below the median for his Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin series of detective novels: not poor, just of the complexity found in the novellas rather than the other novels. It is basically a story of kidnapping, with some twists and surprises and perhaps murder. Wolfe's client is the wife of the kidnapped man.

With the simpler plot, we have characters who are acceptable but mostly not especially subtle or developed. Given the length of a novel, this leaves room for more of Archie Goodwin's internal dialogue — he is the narrator throughout the series — with assorted observations and witticisms: some one-liners and some more extended.
  

I'll provide a couple of instances. Here's Archie's barbed thought about a disagreeable police captain:

"I'll be glad to do you that favor," Saunders said.

He moved his lips the minimum required to get the words out. Someone had probably told him that that showed you had power in reserve, and he had practiced it before a mirror.
  

A philosophic example of Wolfe's thinking, as evaluated by Archie:

At the dinner table, in between bites of deviled grilled lamb kidneys with a sauce he and Fritz had invented, [Wolfe] explained why it was that all you needed to know about any human society was what they ate. If you knew what they ate you could deduce everything else — culture, philosophy, morals, politics, everything.

I enjoyed it because the kidneys were tender and tasty and that sauce is one of Fritz' best, but I wondered how you would make out if you tried to deduce everything about Wolfe by knowing what he had eaten in the past ten years. I decided you would deduce that he was dead.
  

So The Final Deduction is enjoyable as part of the whole Wolfean milieu, although not one to choose to begin your reading of the series. If you think if it as a novella with a little extra of Archie Goodwin, that will be about right.

  

© 2011 Robert Wilfred Franson


  
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