The Golden Spiders by Rex StoutThe Golden Spiders by Rex Stout

The Golden Spiders

byRex Stout

Mass Market Paperback | June 1, 1995

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Nero Wolfe was almost as famous for his wealthy clients and extravagant fees as for his genius at detection. So why has he accepted a case for $4.30? And why have the last two people to hire him been ruthlessly murdered? Wolfe suspects the answers may lie in the story of a twelve-year-old boy who turns up at the door of his West Thirty-fifth Street brownstone. In short order, Wolfe finds himself confronted by one of his most perplexing and pressing cases, involving a curious set of clues: a gray Cadillac, a mysterious woman, and a pair of earrings shaped like spiders dipped in gold. The case is all boiling down to a strange taste of greed—and a grumpy gourmand’s unappeasable appetite for truth.
Introduction by Linda Barnes
“It is always a treat to read a Nero Wolfe mystery. The man has entered our folklore.”—The New York Times Book Review
A grand master of the form, Rex Stout is one of America’s greatest mystery writers, and his literary creation Nero Wolfe is one of the greatest fictional detectives of all time. Together, Stout and Wolfe have entertained—and puzzled—millions of mystery fans around the world. Now, with his perambulatory man-about-town, Archie Goodwin, the arrogant, gourmandizing, sedentary sleuth is back in the original seventy-three cases of crime and detection written by the inimitable master himself, Rex Stout.
Rex Stout (1886–1975) wrote dozens of short stories, novellas, and full-length mystery novels, most featuring his two indelible characters, the peerless detective Nero Wolfe and his handy sidekick, Archie Goodwin.
Title:The Golden SpidersFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 6.86 × 4.18 × 0.52 inPublished:June 1, 1995Publisher:Random House Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0553277804

ISBN - 13:9780553277807


Read from the Book

Chapter 1   When the doorbell rings while Nero Wolfe and I are at dinner, in the old brownstone house on West Thirty-fifth Street, ordinarily it is left to Fritz to answer it. But that evening I went myself, knowing that Fritz was in no mood to handle a caller, no matter who it was.   Fritz’s mood should be explained. Each year around the middle of May, by arrangement, a farmer who lives up near Brewster shoots eighteen or twenty starlings, puts them in a bag, and gets in his car and drives to New York. It is understood that they are to be delivered to our door within two hours after they were winged. Fritz dresses them and sprinkles them with salt, and, at the proper moment, brushes them with melted butter, wraps them in sage leaves, grills them, and arranges them on a platter of hot polenta, which is thick porridge of fine-ground yellow cornmeal with butter, grated cheese, and salt and pepper.   It is an expensive meal and a happy one, and Wolfe always looks forward to it, but that day he put on an exhibition. When the platter was brought in, steaming, and placed before him, he sniffed, ducked his head and sniffed again, and straightened to look up at Fritz.   “The sage?”   “No, sir.”   “What do you mean, no, sir?”   “I thought you might like it once in a style I have suggested, with saffron and tarragon. Much fresh tarragon, with just a touch of saffron, which is the way—”   “Remove it!”   Fritz went rigid and his lips tightened.   “You did not consult me,” Wolfe said coldly. “To find that without warning one of my favorite dishes has been radically altered is an unpleasant shock. It may possibly be edible, but I am in no humor to risk it. Please dispose of it and bring me four coddled eggs and a piece of toast.”   Fritz, knowing Wolfe as well as I did, aware that this was a stroke of discipline that hurt Wolfe more than it did him and that it would be useless to try to parley, reached for the platter, but I put in, “I’ll take some if you don’t mind. If the smell won’t keep you from enjoying your eggs?”   Wolfe glared at me.   That was how Fritz acquired the mood that made me think it advisable for me to answer the door. When the bell rang Wolfe had finished his eggs and was drinking coffee, really a pitiful sight, and I was toward the end of a second helping of the starlings and polenta, which was certainly edible. Going to the hall and the front, I didn’t bother to snap the light switch because there was still enough twilight for me to see, through the one-way glass panel, that the customer on the stoop was not our ship coming in.   I pulled the door open and told him politely, “Wrong number.”   I was polite by policy, my established policy of promoting the idea of peace on earth with the neighborhood kids. It made life smoother in that street, where there was a fair amount of ball throwing and other activities.   “Guess again,” he told me in a low nervous alto, not too rude. “You’re Archie Goodwin. I’ve gotta see Nero Wolfe.”   “What’s your name?”   “Pete.”   “What’s the rest of it?”   “Drossos. Pete Drossos.”   “What do you want to see Mr. Wolfe about?”   “I gotta case. I’ll tell him.”   He was a wiry little specimen with black hair that needed a trim and sharp black eyes, the top of his head coming about level with the knot of my four-in-hand. I had seen him around the neighborhood but had nothing either for or against him. The thing was to ease him off without starting a feud, and ordinarily I would have gone at it, but after Wolfe’s childish performance with Fritz I thought it would do him good to have another child to play with. Naturally he would snarl and snap, but if Pete got scratched I could salve him afterward. So I invited him in and escorted him to the dining room.   Wolfe was refilling his coffee cup. He shot a glance at Pete, who I admit was not dressed up, put the pot down, looked straight at me, and spoke.   “Archie. I will not have interruptions at meals.”   I nodded sympathetically. “I know, but this wasn’t a meal. Call eggs a meal? This is Mr. Peter Drossos. He wants to consult you about a case. I was going to tell him you’re busy, but I remembered you got sore because Fritz didn’t consult you, and I didn’t want you to get sore at Pete too. He’s a neighbor of ours, and you know, love thy neighbor as thyself.”   Ragging Wolfe is always a gamble. A quick reflex explosion may split the air; but if it doesn’t, if he takes a second for a look at it, you’re apt to find yourself topped. That time he took several seconds, sipping coffee, and then addressed our caller courteously. “Sit down, Mr. Drossos.” “I’m not mister, I’m Pete.”   “Very well, Pete, sit down. Turn more to face me, please. Thank you. You wish to consult me?” “Yeah, I gotta case.”   “I always welcome a case, but the timing is a little unfortunate because Mr. Goodwin was going out this evening to see a billiard match, and now of course he will have to stay here to take down all that you say and all that I say. Archie, get your notebook, please?”   As I said, it’s always a gamble. He had his thumb in my eye. I went across the hall to the office for a notebook and pen, and when I returned Fritz was there with coffee for me and cookies and a bottle of Coke for Pete. I said nothing. My pen and notebook would do the recording almost automatically, needing about a fifth of my brain, and I would see the rest of it devising plans for getting from under.   Pete was talking. “I guess it’s okay him taking it down, but I gotta watch my end. This is strictly under the lid.”   “If you mean it’s confidential, certainly.”   “Then I’ll spill it. I know there’s some private eyes you can’t open up to, but you’re different. We know all about you around here. I know how you feel about the lousy cops, just like I do. So I’ll lay it out.”   “Please do.”   “Okay. What time is it?”   I looked at my wrist watch. “Ten to eight.”   “Then it happened an hour ago. I know sometimes everything hangs on the time element, and right after it happened I went and looked at the clock in the drugstore near the corner, and it was a quarter to seven. I was working the wipe racket there at the corner of Thirty-fifth and Ninth, and a Caddy stopped—”   “Please. What’s the wipe racket?”   “Why, you know, a car stops for the light and you hop to it with a rag and start wiping the window, and if it’s a man and he lets you go on to the windshield you’ve got him for at least a dime. If it’s a woman and she lets you go on, maybe you’ve got her and maybe not. That’s a chance you take. Well, this Caddy stopped—”   “What’s a Caddy?”   From the look that appeared in the sharp black eyes, Pete was beginning to suspect that he had picked the wrong private eye. I cut in to show him that anyhow one of us wasn’t a moron, telling Wolfe, “A Cadillac automobile.”   “I see. It stopped?”   “Yeah, for the light. I went for the window by the driver. It was a woman. She turned her face around to me to look straight at me and she said something. I don’t think she made any sound, or anyway if she did I didn’t hear anything through the window because it was up nearly to the top, but she worked her lips with it and I could tell what it was. She said, ‘Help. Get a cop.’ Like this, look.”   He made the words with his lips, overdoing it some, without producing any noise. Wolfe nodded appreciatively. He turned to me. “Archie. Make a sketch of Pete’s mouth doing that pantomime.”   “Later,” I said obligingly. “After you’ve gone to bed.”   “It was plain as it could be,” Pete went on. “ ‘Help, get a cop.’ It hit me, it sure did. I tried to keep my face deadpan, I knew that was the way to take it, but I guess I didn’t, because the man was looking at me and he—”   “Where was the man?”   “There on the seat with her. There was just them two in the car. I guess he saw by my face something had hit me, because he jabbed the gun against her harder and she jerked her head around—”   “Did you see the gun?”   “No, but I’m not a dope, am I? What else would make her want a cop and then jerk her head like that? What do you think it was, a lead pencil?”   “I prefer the gun. And then?”   “I backed up a little. All I had was a piece of rag, and him with a six gun. Now this next part—don’t get me wrong, I got no use for cops. I feel about cops just like you. But it happened so quick I didn’t realize just what I was doing, and I admit I looked around for a cop. I didn’t see one, so I hopped to the sidewalk to see around the corner, and by the time I looked again the light had changed, and there went the car. I tried to flag another car to trail it, but nobody would stop. I thought I might catch it at Eighth Avenue and ran as fast as I could down Thirty-fifth, but it hit a green light at Eighth and went on through when I was only halfway there. But I got the license number.”

From Our Editors

Incredibly brilliant Nero Wolfe is famous for his genius at detection. He is also famous for his wealthy clients and extremely high fees. So why has Wolfe accepted a case for $4.30? And why have the last two people to hire him been ruthlessly murdered? Reissue

Editorial Reviews

“It is always a treat to read a Nero Wolfe mystery. The man has entered our folklore.”The New York Times Book Review