Where There's A Will by Rex StoutWhere There's A Will by Rex Stout

Where There's A Will

byRex Stout

Paperback | March 1, 1995

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Why did the late multimillionaire Noel Hawthorne leave his sisters, April, May, and June, a peach, a pear, and an apple? Why did he will the bulk of his considerable estate to a woman who was most definitely not his wife? Now Nero Wolfe, able, astute, and unscrupulous detective that he is, must get to the bottom of a will that’s left a whirlpool of menace . . . and a legacy of murder that’s about to be fulfilled.
Introduction by Dean R. Koontz
“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:Where There's A WillFormat:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 8.46 × 5.5 × 0.56 inPublished:March 1, 1995Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0553763016

ISBN - 13:9780553763010


Read from the Book

Chapter 1   I put the 1938–39 edition of Who’s Who in America, open, on the leaf of my desk, because it was getting too heavy to hold on a hot day.   “They were sprinkled at discreet intervals,” I stated aloud. “If they didn’t fudge when they supplied the dope, April is thirty-six, May forty-one, and June forty-six. Five years apart. Apparently their parents started at the middle of the calendar and worked backwards, and also apparently they named June that because she was born in June, 1893. But the next one shows an effort of the imagination. I prefer to suppose it was Mamma who thought of it. Although the baby was actually born in February, they named it May …”   There was no sign that Nero Wolfe was listening as he leaned back in his chair with his eyes closed, but I went on anyhow. On that hot July day, in spite of the swell lunch Fritz had served us, I would have sold the world for a dime. My vacation was over. The news from Europe was enough to make you want to put signs at every ten yards along the seacoast, “Private Shore. No Sharks or Statesmen Allowed.” I had bandages on my arms where the black flies had bored for blood in Canada. Worst of all, Nero Wolfe had gone in for a series of fantastic expenditures, the bank balance was the lowest it had been for years, and the detective business was rotten; and just to be contrary, instead of doing his share of the worrying about it he seemed to have adopted the attitude that it would be impertinent to attempt to interfere with natural laws. Which had me boiling. He might be eccentric enough to find pleasure in a personal and intimate test of the operations of the New Deal WPA, but if I had my way about it the only meaning WPA would ever have for yours truly would be Wolfe Pays Archie.   So I went on buzzing. “It all depends,” I declared, “on what it is that’s biting them. It must be something pretty painful, or they wouldn’t have made an appointment to call on you in a body. The death of their brother Noel has probably taken care of their financial potentialities. Noel’s in here too.” I frowned at the Who’s Who. “He was forty-nine, the eldest, three years older than June, and was next to Cullen himself in Daniel Cullen and Company. Did it all himself, started there as a runner in 1908 at twelve bucks a week. That was in his obit in the Times, day before yesterday. Did you read it?”   Wolfe was motionless. I made a face at him and resumed.   “They’re not due for twenty minutes yet, so I might as well give you the benefit of my research. There’s more in this magazine article I dug up than in Who’s Who. A lot of rich and colorful details. For instance, it says that May has worn cotton stockings ever since the Japs bombed Shanghai. It says that Mamma was an amazing woman because she was the mother of four extraordinary children. I have never understood why, in cases like this, it is assumed that Papa’s contribution was negligible, but there’s no time to go into that now. It’s the extraordinary children we’re dealing with.”   I flipped a page of the magazine. “To sum up about Noel, who died Tuesday. It seems he had a row of buttons installed on his desk in the Wall Street offices of Daniel Cullen and Company; one for each country in Europe and Asia, not to mention South America. When he pressed a button, that country’s government resigned and they telephoned him to ask who to put in next. You can’t say that wasn’t extraordinary. The eldest daughter, June, was, as I say, born in June, 1893. At the age of twenty she wrote a daring and sensational book called Riding Bareback, and a year later another one entitled Affairs of a Titmouse. Then she married a brilliant young New York lawyer named John Charles Dunn, who is at the present moment the Secretary of State of the United States of America. He sent a cogent letter to Japan last week. The magazine states that Dunn’s meteoric rise is in great part due to his remarkable wife. Mamma again. June is in fact a mamma, having a son, Andrew, twenty-four and a daughter, Sara, twenty-two.”   I shifted to elevate my feet. “The other two extraordinaries are still named Hawthorne. May Hawthorne never has married. They are thinking of prosecuting her under the anti-trust law for her monopoly on brain cells. At the age of twenty-six she revolutionized colloid chemistry, something about bubbles and drops. Since 1933 she has been president of Varney College, and in those six years has increased its endowment funds by over twelve million bucks, showing that she has gone from colloidal to colossal. It says her intellectual power is extraordinary.   “I was wrong when I said the other two are still named Hawthorne. In April’s case I should have said ‘again’ instead of ‘still’. While she was taking London by storm in 1927 she glanced over the prostrate nobility at her feet and picked out the Duke of Lozano. Four other dukes, a bunch of earls and barons, and two soap manufacturers committed suicide. But alas. Three years later she divorced Lozano, while she was taking Paris by storm, and became April Hawthorne again, privately as well as publicly. She is the only actress, alive or dead, who has played both Juliet and Nora. At present she is taking New York by storm for the eighth time. I can confirm that personally, because a month ago I paid a speculator five dollars and fifty cents for a ticket to Scrambled Eggs. You may remember that I tried to persuade you to go. I figured that since April Hawthorne is the acknowledged queen of the American stage, you owed it to yourself to see her.”   Not a flicker. He wouldn’t rouse.   “Of course,” I said sarcastically, “it is deplorable that these extraordinary Hawthorne gals have no more consideration for your privacy than to come charging in here before you finish digesting your lunch. No matter what is biting them, no matter if their brother Noel left them a million dollars apiece and they want to pay you half of it for putting a tail on their banker, they ought to have more regard for common courtesy. When June phoned this morning I told her—”   “Archie!” His eyes opened. “I am aware that you call Mrs. Dunn, whom you have never met, by her first name, because you think it irritates me. It does. Don’t do it. Shut up.”   “—I told Mrs. Dunn it was an intolerable invasion of your inalienable right to sit here in peace and watch the bank balance disappear in the darkening twilight of the slow but inevitable dispersion of your mental powers and the pitiful collapse of your instinct of self-preservation—”   “Archie!” He thumped the desk.   It was time to side-step, but I was rescued from that necessity by the door’s opening and the appearance of Fritz Brenner. Fritz was beaming, and I could guess why. The visitors he had come to announce had probably impressed him as something unusually promising in the way of clients. The only secrets in Nero Wolfe’s old house on 35th Street near the Hudson River were professional secrets. It was unavoidable that I, his secretary, bodyguard, and chief assistant, should be aware that the exchequer was having its bottom scraped; but Fritz Brenner, cook and gentleman of the household, and Theodore Horstmann, custodian of the famous and expensive collection of orchids which Wolfe maintained in the plant rooms on the roof—they knew it too. And Fritz was beaming, obviously, because the trio whose arrival he was announcing looked more like a major fee than anything the office had seen for weeks. He did it in style. Wolfe told him, with no enthusiasm, to show them in. I took my feet off the desk.

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