Silver Spire

In this sixth in the series of novels reviving Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and associated characters, Robert Goldsborough plays on Wolfe’s professed dislike of organized religion. Lloyd Morgan, the business manager of Silver Spire, an evangelical church, brings a set of notes threatening the church to Wolfe, but Wolfe refuses to investigate. Instead, he instructs assistant Archie Goodwin to refer the case to Fred Durkin, a freelance investigator Wolfe has used in the past.

Wolfe becomes reinvolved in the case when Durkin is charged with the murder of Royal Meade, who had been second in command at the church. Meade was killed with Durkin’s gun following an argument at the Silver Spire, and the police focus on Durkin as a suspect. Wolfe believes that the killer is instead a member of the Inner Circle of Faith, the group that runs the enormously successful church.

As usual, Wolfe has Goodwin perform all of the legwork, offering few comments or suggestions as Goodwin interviews all of the suspects. Goodwin runs into suspects with a mixture of motives, finding out that each of them has a reason for disliking Meade. Wolfe falls into one of his rare “relapses” in the case, stopping working on it because he cannot make any progress. Eventually, of course, he solves the case by what might be called brilliant deduction. Readers may feel cheated, because few of the clues assembled throughout the book are used in the resolution of the case. Wolfe’s solution rests instead on an insight that few readers would be likely to achieve and that results more from random inspiration than inspired deduction. Goodwin’s investigation and running commentary, however, are up to the standards established by Stout and Goldsborough in the previous novels involving the corpulent mastermind.