Saturday, March 07, 2009
Quiet Shabbath siesta-time here in Kever Benjamin, which I spent re-reading Rex Stout's detective novel. It is Manhattan 1955 and Nero Wolfe, the lazy genius, has been contracted to solve a mystery. The answers of a public contest riddle (with 2,000,000 participants) have been stolen and the whole PR campaign is in danger of becoming an embarrasment. Wolfe has one week to the midnight deadline.
Instead of working on the case, Wolfe takes the lift to his roof-top hot-house and plays around with his orchids (pic., practicing urban agriculture fifty years before it was invented), reads poetry and does nothing. The deadline approaches and his Clients are getting very tense. Yet Wolfe has not a clue, but keeps fiddling around with orchids and drinking prodigious amounts of beer. The minutes, the hours, the days pass and nothing moves. The last day before the midnight deadline he calls in a meeting in his office, hoping that someone's overstressed nerves may snap or something else. Astonishingly, his strategy works, a man is poisoned in the meeting, everybody breaks down, the mystery unfolds and is solved by the (incompetent) police.
The epilogue is the best. Wolfe's Client refuses to pay. It sounds so veridic to me that I can easily believe that it is a real story and not Rex Stout's imagination. Of course there is no need for a reason yet Wolfe asks: Why?
"You did nothing. The situation solved itself." Oh God, this are my Clients speaking in Kever Benjamin 2009. The water supplied itself, the system corrected spontaneously, the solution was obvious, we could have done it without you and in fact did, and so on. But Wolfe was ready.
"If you read the detailed list of expenses, you will find that ... receipts for letters, for this and for that..." Wolfe proves that all this time he has been acting in the shadows, secretly increasing the tension, firing suspicions and enemities, provoking the participants into reacting and making mistakes, confusing them with phantom menaces, till they all became nervous wrecks. Wolfe got paid in full his (50,000 1955 American dollars) fee. Excellent.