If Death Ever Slept
by Rex Stout

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

a Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin mystery

Viking: New York, 1957
186 pages

Collins: London, 1958
192 pages

collected in —

Three Trumps

May 2011

Boring from within

It goes rather against my grain to waste time reviewing books that are essentially dull and boring. It also is against Troynovant's policy to waste its space, and its readers' time, mildly savaging or bluntly thumping such poor material. The reason for the current exception is that the book at hand, a purported mystery novel rejoicing in the unhelpfully random title of If Death Ever Slept, reposes futilely among Rex Stout's generally excellent mystery series about detectives Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin. This is unfortunate, and I merely wish to warn you from a reading experience which does not sink to bad but merely is dull.

So as not to keep you in suspense, I'll share — without plot-spoiling — the secret of the title. A young woman in the novel, as a child long before the story opens, shot a squirrel in a city park. She still feels bad about this, and recited to Archie Goodwin a scrap of of the verses she wrote as a memorial of that sad event. Neither the girl nor Archie know what the phrase means, and as a title it seems to have as little to do with the novel as the squirrel.

But, you say, there must be something good about If Death Ever Slept. Really, not so much. There is of course a modicum of the Wolfe and Goodwin wittiness. The plot is an actual murder mystery, with characters.

Reading this unexciting novel sank me into boredom during the third quarter or so, and I kept reading only through momentum and faint hope. It revives a little in the wrapup. I'd consign it to the nether zone of for completists only.


© 2011 Robert Wilfred Franson

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