Saturday, January 21, 2012

Some buried Caesar by Rex Stout

Nero Wolfe, the famous New York Detective is travelling with his assistant Archie Goodwin to an Agricultural fair north of NY. In the way the meet with an accident and the Stout Wolfe somehow ends up in the path of Caesar, no not the man who created the Roman Empire from the Republic but a prized bull who is also the focal point of a great controversy in the region.

Caesar is owned by Mr. Pratt, who is a wealthy restaurateur and plans to BBQ the prized bull for publicity. This is vehemently opposed by the Guernsey League and Mr. Pratt's neighbor Osgood who thinks that this is a ploy by Pratt to humiliate the Osgood's. Clyde Osgood makes a 10 grand bet with Pratt that he won't be able to barbecue Caesar. A worried Pratt seeks the service of Wolfe to have Archie protect the bull from any malevolent machinations, which Wolfe agrees to.

Something goes wrong the same night Clyde Osgood is found dead in the Pasture and apparently he has been gored to death by Caesar. The case is simple enough Clyde went in to steal Caesar in order to win the bet but instead got Gored to death. Two people don't believe this Clyde's father and Nero Wofle. Osgood Senior hires  Wolfe to find out what really happened.

Review:

Mystery book sellers voted Some buried Caesar as one of the top 100 favorite mystery books of the 20th century. Why not? It has everything a gripping plot which is also comical. A hardboiled Detective and his eager and impetuous Assistant, beautiful women and a decent mystery. so did it work for me?



Yes and No.

First I will elaborate about the yes. What works for me from the word go about this novel is Nero Wolfe's Character, he is not superficial and wooden. He is like a PI that you will find in everyday life. Wolfe does not jump into the investigation of the murder because he feels he is morally obliged to but he starts the investigation only when he is hired by the Victim's father. To bring the investigation to an end he even hides clues from the Police, because that is how real people behave they don't do things for free or things which don't get them anything in return. I know a lot of people won't like Wolfe and I think somewhere he manifests our selfishness and thus we might loathe him.

Another yes about this book was it was American. All my life I have read mystery novels by Englishmen or Americans who were more English then actual Englishmen. This is the first real American novel I have read. It is so American you can feel it everywhere, read a Christie or a Berkeley and then read a Rex Stout you will immediately know the difference between the two cultures and nationalities. While the impression that you get of the Americans is that they are more aggressive, impatient and generally tend to be more vituperative then their English counterparts you also get to know Americans are more active, real and genuine people. I guess even after 73 years since the book came out this hasn't changed.

There is a nice subplot in the book about Osgood's who are a wealthy landlord family and the Pratt's who are also wealthy but they are the kind who have made money on their own and don't have a family legacy. The relationship between the two is precariously placed in the book. Pratt thinks of Osgood as a snob who robbed him of the love of his life and consciously or sub-consciously tries to better him whenever he gets the opportunity meanwhile Osgood thinks of Pratt as an ignoble Proletariat who has risen to challenge him and treats him with contempt.

Now lets get to the No. Firstly, Archie Goodwin did not work for me as a narrator. I think I don't like assistants of detective's to be the narrator it just highlights more of the egoistic part of the detective because an employee/assistant who is always overshadowed by the Hero/Detective/Protagonist sees the detective as unusually arrogant and corpulent. also I did not find his jokes funny and thought he was rather too aggressive at times.

Secondly, I also found it a little difficult to believe that the police are so helpless and powerless over the detectives. Archie and Nero mock the police incessantly in the book, and once even physically harm them and the cops do not retaliate.

Fans of the golden age of detective fiction expect the hero to act in a certain manner but when you see them engaging in physical violence and unscrupulous activities you can't help but disapprove.

all in all if you are bored of reading the cosy English mystery this will be a break from the routine.

3 Stars for Some buried Caesar.

Where can you buy it? It's in print and you can find it online and in any local bookshop for about Rs 370



I'm submitting this review as part of the Vintage Mystery reading challenge and the 2012 Global Reading Challenge




and the 2012 Global Reading Challenge

2 comments:

  1. Following your suggestion, I read this book and enjoyed it thoroughly. Archie's voice does work for me.

    BTW, where have you disappeared? The new job still taking too much of your time?

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    Replies
    1. hi,

      neer I'm glad you liked it. ya very busy with new job getting very little reading done :(

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