Recluse and mystery book collector Vera Van Alst suddenly fires her book assistant, Jordan Bingham, at the opening of The Wolfe Widow by Victoria Abbott, upon Vera’s being suddenly visited by a woman unknown to Jordan and the other members of Vera’s household. The next thing Jordan hears, Muriel Delgado has moved into Vera’s home and begun taking over many of Vera’s valuable books, in particular her favorite collection of Nero Wolfe books. The Signora, who serves as chef for Vera’s household, and Kevin, Jordan’s uncle who is currently on the lam and serving as Vera’s gardener, have even been forbidden from making any contact with Jordan, so they resort to burner phones and code names, the latter to appease Kevin’s sense of drama.
Out of concern for the situation, Jordan begins investigating Muriel Delgado, and when she finds her way to the street where Muriel grew up, she gets hit from behind by a truck, narrowly escaping with her life by landing in bags of leaves raked up for the fall. Just as Jordan already feels low after having been fired from her job; losing her home, which was in a garret in the Van Alst House; and being run down by a truck, her two best friends drop out of her life, while her cop boyfriend goes out of town on a training exercise, and her two reliable uncles get busy with a secret project that takes up all their time. So Jordan is left having to rely on her highly unreliable Uncle Kevin and his girlfriend as her only active allies, which teaches her a degree of self-reliance. Thus she must learn to use these unusual supporters to work to figure out the hold Muriel must have on Vera and even possible designs on Vera’s life.
The title of the book refers to the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout, and even more than the previous two books in this series, Jordan incorporates questions of how things would be dealt with by Nero Wolfe or his “Man Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday,” as Archie Goodwin likes to call himself. She addresses the questions from the viewpoints of both Wolfe and Archie, incorporating their detecting techniques. For example, Wolfe refuses to leave his house on business, and while Jordan is unable to leave her own home after being hit by a truck, she employs Wolfe’s methods of making lists and sitting to think. And the book concludes with the classic Nero Wolfe ending of a meeting of all the suspects in which the detective announces the murderer.
The book is narrated by Carla Mercer-Meyer, whom I consider to be an effective narrator.
As a big fan of the Nero Wolfe books, I particularly enjoyed the flavors of The Wolfe Widow. I did miss getting to see some of the major characters from the previous two books, such as Lance, Officer “Smiley” Tyler Decker, and Uncles Mick and Lucky. But Uncle Kevin has such a fun and unique character that he and his girlfriend helped to fill that gap. I did not find the story to be as strong as the first two books in the series, but the Wolfian theme makes up for that to me. Some might give this book four stars, but I give it five.
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