Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin have a lot of boldfaced names on their suspect list when New York’s most hated gossip columnist is murdered.
There are few people Nero Wolfe respects, and Lon Cohen of the New York Gazette is one of them. So when Cohen asks for a favor, the famously brilliant—and notoriously lazy—detective is inclined to listen. According to Cohen, someone wants to kill the Gazette’s gossip columnist, Cameron Clay. Death threats are a regular hazard for Clay, who’s hurled insults and accusations at every bold-faced name in the five boroughs. But the latest threats have carried a more sinister tone.
The columnist has narrowed his potential killers down to five people: an egomaniacal developer, a disgraced cop, a corrupt councilman, a sleazy lawyer, and his own ex-wife. But when Clay turns up dead, the cops deem it a suicide. The bigwigs at the Gazette don’t agree, so they retain Wolfe and his indefatigable assistant, Archie Goodwin, to figure out which of the suspects had the mettle to pull the trigger.
In this “outstanding” mystery, Robert Goldsborough, author of Murder in E Minor, “once again demonstrates an impressive ability to emulate Rex Stout’s narrative voice” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
Goldsborough's outstanding 11th Nero Wolfe pastiche provides a sedate contrast to the previous volume, 2015's Archie in the Crosshairs, which opened with a bang, as someone shot at Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's leg man, on his way home. Lon Cohen of the New York Gazette asks for Wolfe's help after his paper's most-read and most-notorious writer, Cameron Clay, receives death threats. Since Clay's column routinely ruffles feathers, that's not an unusual occurrence, but the writer views the current threats as more serious. Wolfe agrees to meet with Clay and gets a list of the five people most likely to pose a danger to him, including a real estate magnate and Clay's diva ex-wife. But after the columnist rejects protection, he's found dead of a gunshot wound, and the Gazette's publisher asks Wolfe to challenge the police's verdict of suicide. Offering one of his most surprising solutions, Goldsborough again demonstrates an impressive ability to emulate Rex Stout's narrative voice.
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Not the Archie I know
Before reading "Stop the Presses", I thought about the three previous Nero Wolfe books authored by Robert Goldsborough I'd read. All focused a bit too much (IMO) on Lon Cohen and I attributed it to Mr. Goldsborough being a reporter and wanting to show his former profession in a positive light. Still, I was unpleasantly surprised to find that this most recent novel again emphasizes the newspaper industry. I know the writers' rule to write about what you know but really...
As disappointed I am with the plotting in this series, I'm more disappointed in the Archie and Wolfe characterizations. Despite approvals and praise from Rex Stout's estate, Goldsborough's characters just don't have the wit, feistiness, edge of Stout's characters. Technically the writing is ok and includes traditional elements like the orchids, beer, brownstone, etc., but nuances are missing. Archie and Nero go through the motions but I never feel their emotions. They are one dimensional. And as such I do not feel the same passion for these characters as I did for Stout's.
Too bad because there are six more "new" Nero Wolfe novels available to read. I think I will re-read the originals instead.