The Gun with Wings
by Rex Stout

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

a Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin mystery

The American Magazine, December 1949

collected in —
Curtains for Three

Full House

November 2009

Contrary proofs

"The Gun with Wings" is a murder-mystery novella featuring Rex Stout's reclusive-genius detective, Nero Wolfe, with his active-principle partner, Archie Goodwin.

In brief, "The Gun with Wings" develops a teasing study in contrasts. We have a marriage that is, and isn't, a proper marriage — there seems to have been a marriage, but perhaps it isn't valid. And we have a murder that is, and isn't a murder — we definitely have a death, but is it murder, or a self-shooting?

The young woman took a pink piece of paper from her handbag, got up from the red leather chair, put the paper on Nero Wolfe's desk, and sat down again. Feeling it my duty to keep myself informed and also to save Wolfe the exertion of leaning forward and reaching so far, I arose and crossed to hand the paper to him after a glance at it. It was a check for five thousand dollars, dated that day, August fourteenth, made out to him, and signed Margaret Mion. He gave a look and dropped it back on the desk.

"I thought," she said, "perhaps that would be the best way to start the conversation."

Nero Wolfe is not at all fond of cases involving marital complications, but certainly there is a death here, as well as the business incentive above. Yet as the situation unfolds and folds back upon itself, the subtle challenge laid upon Wolfe, or which he discerns and accepts, is to prove that the death was both by another and by the victim. Not easy, even for the keen observations and keener resolving power of Wolfe and Goodwin.

If there is a small mystery sub-genre of what we may call contrary proofs, Rex Stout has given us a neat example here.

The gun has wings, you see.


© 2009 Robert Wilfred Franson

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