If Death Ever Slept --> Spoilers!
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A potential client wants a job done that involves a "marital affliction". Wolfe indulges the man and attempts to goad Archie into raising objections to the job. Archie refuses the bait and goes along with a scheme to go undercover. He proposes an alias for himself - Adonis Guilfoyle - which has been adopted by one of the posters here! He settles for Alan Green - the initials need to be the same to match his luggage!
No doubt Archie believes Wolfe will then refuse the job since he does not accept divorce work and will have to be without Archie's services if the undercover assignment is carried out. Wolfe, not to be outdone, turns the assignment over to Archie and marches out of the office.
Wolfe and Archie's squabbles are nothing new. Others of them must have resulted in significant developments, but I don't recall any particulars. We will see where this one leads.
That Wolfe would accept this client is preposterous. What kind of an arrogant oaf drops an envelope on the floor when he can't find a garbage can? Oh, wait, I think I answered that question in the question. And then offensively implying Wolfe is a tax cheat. It's really piled on how low this man is, yet because of stubbornness, Wolfe takes the case.
In chapter two Archie is undercover at the Jarrell penthouse - twenty rooms plus or minus two or three. He meets what I assume will be the major characters. One who's bones are buried to deep by the thickening stucco (the wife), and one who confesses to killing a squirrel when she was younger (the daughter). Archie manages several quips per page as he gets us familiar with the family and hangers-on that will undoubtedly include a victim and a villain.
Any thoughts on who will do what to whom at this point?
And not so much trick, as tricky, as in not following the usual Stout formula; it works, though!
Chapter 2 - Does anyone else get a good idea of this penthouse? I can never visualize these things. I do enjoy the description of the designer wars though. Sounds like some of the reality TV shows we have now.
What would be the difference in the job of a secretary and a stenographer? I suppose the secretary would just schedule appointments?
One thing nice about Archie, he always looks for the good parts of a woman. He doesn't just throw her out because she isn't perfection. Just because the wife has too much "stucco" on her face, doesn't mean he can't enjoy her legs. :)
The end of this chapter almost seems like everyone is one big, happy, overindulged family. Except for the stepson kissing his stepmother on the lips, creepy, and the dramatic ending with the "snake" entering the room.
It was essentially this: I find it hard to visualize places by reading about them. I'm too interested in plowing ahead with the story. It's especially difficult with this penthouse. The variation styles described would seem to be quite a mess!
Was the layout of the floors described clearly enough to get a picture of the scene? Again, I didn't pay enough attention. I'm wondering if the apparent maze-like layout will figure in the plot.
MrsLee, you comments about Jarrell are right on. And it is quite obvious after reading what you have to say. I have no talent for pulling the details together as you have about Jarrell. It would probably help to slow down and think a little more.
On to the 'snake'.
Oh, by the way, I assume the stenographer is primarily limited to taking dictation and typing. The secretary would handle the schedule, make phone calls, and generally act like an assistant, performing any chores that did not require Jarrell's skills.
Unfortunately, I'm old enough to remember when there were quite a few secretaries around - no computer on every desk. Although I can't type for beans now, back then I couldn't type at all. We used to write memos and letters in longhand and give them to a 'pool' secretary to type for us. I suppose prior to that there were more specialized stenographers around.
The Jarrells are yet another wealthy but dysfunctional family, and there is tension between various members. Lois the daughter is about as abstract as Archie, the son likes to bet, the father and step-mother have a tense relationship, and of course Jarrell doesn't trust his daughter-in-law. None of them really stood out for me, bar Lois.
Have you reached the chapters with Orrie the impostor yet?
Stout is great for picking a metaphor, such as Susan being a snake (I wonder if he enjoyed the sound of that), then milking it for all it's worth. "I had wondered if Susan would go off to her pit."
Now in Chapter 3, Jarrell tries to bribe Archie to frame Susan. If that's what he was doing (does anyone doubt it?), it was a big mistake because now Wolfe and Archie are as one again, both their prides hurt by an outsider. It doesn't seem that Archie is very bothered by Orrie now that he and Wolfe are on the same wavelength.
What is the allure of Susan that she even got Archie? Are there women like that? I don't pay much attention. ;)
Chapter 4 - I don't care for Nora, Susan, Wyman or Jarrell. The rest of the characters don't bother me much. When I say I don't care for them, I'm not critiquing the author, I'm complementing him. I don't think he meant for me to care much for them.
Chapter 5 - Do you believe that Wolfe needs Archie to tell him why Archie needs to return to Jarrell's? I think this is just another one of Archie's functions, to spell things out so Wolfe can't escape reality.
"hive of predators and parasites" That is a perfect description if I ever heard one.
Chapter 6 - Jarrell saying his operations are based on inside information. Is that legal? Or should I say, was that legal at the time this was written?
Avocado whipped with sugar, lime juice and green chartreuse....what IS that? Maybe I should ask that question in the Cookbookers group I'm in, but it sounds nasty. Is it a sorbet? A drink? A soup? I looked up Green Chartreuse on Wiki and there was a very interesting article there, I think I'd rather just taste the liqueur. If anyone is brave enough to edit Wiki, they don't have the quote from Stout's book there, but then maybe it isn't high enough literature...
About scrapbooks, I don't know if anyone does this anymore. Pasting clippings and photos of celebrities in a book, but my mother-in-law and her sister, teens in the '40s, had one full of Frank Sinatra. They only had one page for Bing, and a few other notes on other celebs.
I would love to see Archie "dealing" with Orrie in a movie. I get the feeling that Wolfe subtly approved. Archie is quite proud of the position he holds and it gratifies Wolfe that he is. Do you agree?
Chapter 10 - "Caption for Wolfe's face: The Gathering Storm. I like that. I don't think I got the reference the first time I read this, because I hadn't read Winston S. Churchill's book yet. I love how you discover more with each read.
Chapter 12 - It strikes me that when Lois quips, "If death ever slept," it could be appropriate to call Wolfe "Death" as he always ferrets out the villain. Of course one could call him "Justice" or some other things as well.
Chapter 17 - For some reason I had it in my head that Roger Foote was the bad guy.
Would you sleep with a loaded gun under your head? Was Dol Bonner just being figurative?
What more would it take to prove that a "murderess, a hellcat and a wretch" is also a snake? What, in your mind defines someone as a snake? I think of devious and sneaky. Deadly. Insinuating. Did Susan fit?
And I have never take to Dol Bonner; Stout was trying too hard. Plus, she has a ridiculous name!
I agree that Orrie never seemed to be as annoying as Stout had Archie imply. I do think it shows that Orrie had a moral weakness all along, so as to prepare us for later things.
Orrie is never as 'honourable' as Archie (Marlowe, without the chess) or Saul or Fred, but there are degrees of weakness; as I say, I think Orrie got short shrift from Stout (I'd have picked Saul, just to be controversial - what does the reader ever really learn about him? And first of all he had a wife and family, and then he was living in a bachelor flat ...)
Saul is *too* perfect, in my opinion - the man has no subtle shading; he's either dazzling brilliance or complete shadow. He's a device to create suspense and move the story along, and the reader never learns *how* he works his wonders for Wolfe. Archie aside, I prefer Fred: affable, dependable, flustered, but trustworthy, and with a wife we know by name!
I suppose, as a backhanded compliment, that I just expect from Stout the same padding with the secondary characters as we get with Wolfe and Archie - and even they can be delightfully vague at times!
I'm within two ro three books of completeing all the Nero Wolfes myself. I have to find and buy them. The last few have come from the Internet, through Abebooks. I started rereading the 8 or 10 books I had on my shelf in about August last year, maybe a little earlier. And now I'm almost done.
Do either of you like Philo Vance in the books by S.S. van Dine? I remember reading The Bishop Murder Case as a teenager. It was late at night and there was a creepy scene in the book that scared me half to death. Mainly because of that I've always favored the three or four van Dine books I read. I've picked up several of his other novels recently - ones I have not read. I plan to reread Bishop and then take on the others.
Which reminds me - remember when many mystery books included a drawing or map of the scene of the drime? I seem to remember quite a few of those from my youth.
etrainer: The nice thing is, whenever you post it will still be fun for us to read. I've never read S.S. van Dine. I did read The Saint by Leslie Charteris. A somewhat naughty hero. Very dry humor. I liked it, but I didn't keep it. I couldn't reread it like I can Stout.
I think I shall try Charteris, too, MrsLee, thanks for the suggestion (too many suggestions, not enough time!)
"If death ever slept" was line from a poem written by Jarrell's daughter. What is the significance to the plot? Why should this become the title of the book? If there is any reason, it escaped me.
In this story there isn't much of Wolfe's normal clever deduction, IMO. Since the gun used in the murders (there was more than one, wasn't there?) was probably hidden by the murderer, Wolfe employs his normal operatives to do the legwork of looking for the weapon. They retrace the movements of all the suspects, eventually turning up the gun. More like a police procedural than deduction worthy of a genius it seems to me.
As to the poem, I'm not very good at subtlety, but at one point, the daughter compares Wolfe to death, so maybe that has something to do with it. Or a play on (Shakespeare's?) "murder shrieks out."
To answer your question, I have read them all, but not lately. If you want to discuss a particular one, start a discussion and I'll grab it off the shelf to read. :) I'm enjoying this.