My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I borrowed Double for Death eBook from the Toronto Public Library, virtual branch, thinking it was a Nero Wolfe mystery, not knowing Rex Stout had written another series starring a different kind of detective called “Tecumseh Fox.” A bit of a surprise when I read the Introduction and discovered not Nero Wolfe. But I had been looking for a new series to try, so this was rather serendipitous!
The first big diff between a Fox mystery and a Wolfe one was point of view (POV): it’s third person whereas it’s first person from Archie’s POV in a Wolfe book. This means Stout can write scenes in which Fox or any of his compadres does not appear. It makes for a more complicated, plot-wise, story. But it also means that it’s far, far more difficult to get a handle on this Fox character. In fact, I never did get a sense of this man. Given Stout’s command of the language, the plot, the clues, I think this is deliberate, that Stout wanted a character as mysterious as Wolfe is obvious. We get hints of who this man is, but one really has to exercise the little grey cells to see the hints from how Fox interacts with the action and the other characters. Show not tell, Stout does well here! It is essentially like meeting a new acquaintance who keeps things close to the vest, doesn’t talk much to give you ideas of what they’re thinking or feeling. It’s intriguing enough to make the reader want to read the next in the series (is there a next? how long is the series, I should look!) to find out more about Fox.
The plot itself is engaging, with enough realistic twists to keep one reading. And the clues are most certainly there, but cleverly woven into the story so that they’re not easy to pick up. Yet the dénouement doesn’t come out of nowhere, making the reader go, “huh?” Instead, it fits in nicely, and the reader goes, “ooohhhhh, of course!”