An art hoarder’s suspicious death paints a nasty picture for Nero Wolfe.
No matter how fabulously he’s being courted, infamously dour “art hog” Arthur Wordell isn’t keen on favoring the new Guggenheim Museum with his extensive collection. Even at the urging of his beloved daughter, Nadia. Then, the night after the museum’s fête, Arthur takes a twenty-story plunge from the window of his Times Square office. Nadia thinks it’s no mere coincidence.
Eccentric, yes. Suicidal, no. Private investigator Nero Wolfe and his assistant, Archie Goodwin, agree. Especially after eyeballing Arthur’s enemies and sycophants, including his ex-wife, a covetous curator, a troika of obsequious advisors, and an outré Greenwich Village artist anxious to see her work out of storage and on the walls of the “Guggie.”
For Wolfe, there’s a problem: Arthur didn’t leave a will. Without a beneficiary not a soul in Arthur’s circle is set to benefit from his death. Nor do they show any customary indication of guilt. If anybody can solve a seemingly unsolvable masterpiece of murder, it’s Wolfe. Unfortunately, this time, New York’s artful investigator is, admittedly, stumped.
Continuing the acclaimed series—which also includes The Battered Badge, Archie Meets Nero Wolfe, Murder in the Ball Park, Archie in the Crosshairs, and Murder, Stage Left—Nero Award–winning author Robert Goldsborough “does a masterly job with the Wolfe legacy” (Booklist).
Set in the late 1950s, Goldsborough's disappointing 14th Nero Wolfe mystery (after 2018's The Battered Badge) finds Wolfe's assistant, Archie Goodwin, attending a fundraising dinner at the Waldorf Astoria to benefit the nearly completed Guggenheim Museum. Archie sits at a table that includes affluent art collector Arthur Wordell, who's expected to donate most of his collection to the new museum. Two weeks after the event, Wordell falls to his death from the 20th floor of his Manhattan office building. Since the dead man was in the habit of sitting on his window ledge to take in the view, the police believe that the fall was accidental, but Wordell's daughter is certain that her father was pushed. Archie helps round up the suspects, many of whom shared his table at the fund-raiser, including the curator of Wordell's collection. As usual, the scenes where Wolfe interrogates the suspects are effective, but the climax, in which he reveals the killer's identity, falls flat. Nonetheless, Goldsborough convincingly simulates the prose and characterizations of Wolfe's creator, Rex Stout (1886 1975). Fans will hope for a return to form next time.