Three Men Out: First Edition
Three Men Out: First Edition

Mystery fans continue to marvel that Rex Stout's novelettes are packed with as much plot, characterization, wit, and suspense as his full-length novels. Once again Viking offers three of his latest shorter works in a big Nero Wolfe bargain volume. In two of these stories Nero - much to his dislike - stirs from his premises.

In "Invitation to Murder" he comes rushing to a millionaire's home to save Archie and incidentally to determine if one of three handsome women is a murderer.

In "This Won't Kill You" he actually goes to a World Series game and solves a murder in which fielding errors and base hits are among the clues.

To make up for this unaccustomed dashing about, in "The Zero Clue" Nero not only stays strictly at home, but manages to get most of Manhattan's homicide team occupying his house while he tries to decipher the mysterious clue left by the dying mathematical wizard.

This is one of three Wolfe stories using clueing related to relatively arcane mathematical trivia: "The Zero Clue" in Three Men Out, And Be a Villain, and Death of a Doxy.

"Invitation to Murder:
"I am indifferent to what you call it, blackmail or brigandage, but it would be childish for you to suppose I would perform so great a service for you as a benefaction. My spring of philanthropy is not so torrential." (p. 41-42)

"The Zero Clue"
"Confound it, am I suggesting a gambol for my refreshment? Do you think I welcome an invasion of my premises by platoons of policemen herding a drove of scared and suspected citizens?" (p. 71)

"This Won't Kill You"
"The requisitions of the income tax have added greatly to the attractions of mercenary crime." (p. 122)

Three brilliant short stories. Tightly packed with action and info-if you pay very close attention, you can figure each solution out-but most likely you'll get caught up in all the action and let it unfold in Nero's usual way.

Sometimes, a novella is just enough. This collection of 3 Nero Wolfe mysteries works very well. Short and sweet, solved in typical Wolfe style. []