Nero Wolfe's brilliant mind is at work once more in this college-reunion mystery. At Harvard, a student was crippled in a hazing accident. While his friends never forgave themselves, they believed that he had forgiven them. Many years later, they begin getting vengeful poems and their reunion ends in a fatal fall.
A covenant of guilt and fear.
This is the second book in the Nero Wolfe series, but the returning characters are already fairly well established. One of the distinguishing marks of the 41-year series is that the characters are stable and functional from the beginning, and perform efficiently throughout the various stories.
In the body of about 75 Wolfe stories, this is one of the "darkest" stories. The characters are motivated by fear and vengeance. The female love-object is beautiful but rather cold. Nonetheless, Wolfe rises above the general emotional chaos to get to the truth of the matter, and Archie accounts for it all in his fast-paced and entertaining style.
Stout gives us a lot to think about in terms of love, friendship, and relations between the sexes. It is often said that Wolfe hates women, and it may in any case be safe to say that he doesn't care much for the women in this book, and neither do I. Although there are few attractive characters, the story itself is a very good one; he is commenting on a privileged section of our society. His observations are relevant and disquieting.
As a direct contrast in mood, compare the next book, "The Rubber Band," which is a journey into comic romantic fantasy.