Too Many Cooks--Rex Stout


I see that I somehow overlooked reviewing this Nero Wolfe mystery. I was reminded of it by a reference in Proust Was a Neuroscientist to the renowned chef Brillat-Savarin, who is mentioned several times throughout this book.

Well, where to start? Nero Wolfe is invited to a meeting of Le Quinze Maitres, an elite group of chefs that meets each year. This year the meeting is one in which they need to add three to their number due to attrition over time--so it's more like Le Douze Maitres. To attend this meeting Wolfe travels by train from New York to Greenbrier West Va., there to stay at the famous spa--in nearly inarticulate terror throughout the journey. However, he has been invited to be guest speaker on Les Contributions Americain au haute cuisine. In the course of his stay one of les quinze is murdered and another, a close friend of Wolfe's, Vukcic (owner of Rusterman's) accused of the crime. As no one is shedding any tears over the dead many, we have a room full of suspects, sharp kitchen knives, and motives.

Despite the usual Stout sparkling dialogue and precise writing, the book does of have one disturbing element--the ugly racist epithets and language used by Archie to describe the wait staff and servants at the resort. It is counter-balanced in good part by Wolfe's own attitude and language, but this flaw did detract (a little) from my overall enjoyment of the book.

However, given that this is the book in which Wolfe obtains the recipe for his most favorite sausage--saucisse minuit and it takes place atypically outside of the Brownstone and away from the Orchid Room, it has much to recommend it from point of view of uniqueness in the oeuvre.

A fine mystery, well done, with a sparkle of humor, an interesting test for chefs, and a nice resolution in which the murderer is revealed as Wolfe finishes his speech on American cuisine. Well worth your time if you're interested in well-written mysteries.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 19, 2009 7:25 AM.

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