ARCHIE MEETS NERO WOLFE by Robert Goldsborough
Archie Meets Nero Wolfe doesn’t really go into Nero Wolfe’s background. It really is a book about Archie, which is really good and interesting. Fans wanting more of Wolfe’s background are going to have to be happy with The Black Mountain, though some fans are divided over that book.
Robert Goldsborough has written several of the Nero Wolfe mysteries after the original author Rex Stout passed away. Goldsborough updated Archie from a typewriter to a computer, but other than that things went on as normal at the old brownstone.
Given that the series debuted in the 1930s, the heroes don’t age – or if they do, it’s only very slowly. Goldsborough’s early books were set in what was then present day. This one, although not dated, appears to take place in the 1930s. The picture on the book cover indicates that, and the writing style and worldview in the pages tend to reflect that as well. The time period doesn’t jar, although readers that can’t imagine a world without cell phones and internet might be stymied.
Archie as he’s presented in this story is an all-around guy I’d like to meet. When I was a kid at 13 reading these books, I always thought of Archie as the cool older brother I never had. Here he’s innocent and vulnerable and cracks just as wise as always.
It’s interesting to see the early relationships develop. When the series began, all of the relationships with Purley Stebbins and Rowcliff are already in place. As are the relationships with the rest of Wolfe’s collection of part-time PIs – Saul Panzer, Orrie Cather, and Bill Gore. I was kind of let down by the Stebbins/Rowcliff intros, but I felt really good about the meetings between Archie and his on again/off again workmates.
The mystery actually plays out one of the long running relationships in the series, explaining why Wolfe had regular dinners with the Williamson family for so long. Goldsborough is very attentive to the Nero and Archie mythos. The pacing is good, hooking the reader equally with action and detection, and builds up to a rousing climax with the inevitable – but so satisfying – scene between Wolfe and Archie in which the job is offered.