Published by Crimeline (first published 1935)
Paperback, 320 pages
Genres: adult fiction, classics, detective fiction, mystery
4/5 stars: This is the second installment in the Nero Wolfe series and equals the first, Fer-de-Lance, in wit and charm. The plot is perhaps not as fast-paced and the ending feels a tad anti-climactic, but it is certainly original, clever and worth reading. Once again Rex Stout proves his skill in managing large numbers of characters as this story involves a group of thirty men convinced two of their number have been murdered, the rest are in mortal danger, and that they know who the man responsible is. Wolfe and Archie must investigate the two suspicious months-old deaths, keep tabs on their suspect, and attempt to minimize the inevitable hysteria. These seem like simple tasks compared with making sure no one else is mysteriously bumped off, and Archie, along with Fred, Orrie and Saul, part-time legmen of Wolfe's, are led on a wild goose chase when another of the men disappears. I am pleased to say the reader becomes much more acquainted with Archie in this volume, and perhaps the part I enjoyed the most is when he, proud as always of his independent and ultra-masculine attitude, unashamedly exposes some of his vulnerabilities. To see such an unusual and unexpected side of a character is always fascinating, but in this case it is truly heartwarming (read: I wanted to give Archie a giant hug). Wolfe's response is admirable and indicates a familial and touching relationship between them that is not often actively demonstrated. While the mystery itself is unique and interesting, the exploration into Archie and Wolfe's characters alone makes reading The League of Frightened Men worthwhile.