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The Rubber Band

by Rex Stout
Series: Nero Wolfe Mysteries #3
244 pages, Mystery
Reviewed by Ariel_of_Narnia

Entertaining, but contains mild language and some passive mentions of lust, and liquor.

Plot

Archie Goodwin is certain his boss has lost his marbles. The eccentric Nero Wolfe breaks his own general rules regarding the fees he charges for his services: he takes the case of young Miss Clara Fox on a $1 deposit rather than the case that a large corporation is offering him to determine whether or not the same Clara Fox has committed larceny. Naturally, there's more to both cases than would seem.

Morality

Both mysteries surround moral issues: bribery, trickery, false, motives, murder, and selfish desires. While we laud Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin for being the good guys trying to do the right thing, they both have their faults. Wolfe can be inconsiderate and very self-centered; he also lies - or at least hedges - when asked questions he doesn't wish to answer. Archie uses his wit to effect, and while amusing, he also does it to hamper policemen searching the house.

Spiritual Content

For no reason whatsoever, Wolfe remarks that he's not a necromancer and that he came to a conclusion "not by divination".

Violence

The book makes mention of a dart having been "dipped in poison and used to pink a guy with." A man is reported to have been shot five times and killed; another dies from a bullet wound to the back of the head; neither of these are witnessed. Another man receives a superficial but bloody wound to the arm; yet another man is shot twice and killed (witnessed but barely described).
Archie gets into an unintentional and brief scuffle with two men and he refers to his victory over the two men as his having "bit their jugulars" and "cut their throats and put them in the garbage can". While police are searching for someone, he jokes that he'd cut the person in question and scattered the pieces into hiding places. Archie exaggerates the frustration of a man as "cutting off people's heads". He also hopes Wolfe's chef will hit someone on the head with a stew pan. He pulls out a gun in the event it's needed.
Wolfe makes reference to a rack and thumbscrew when he's pressed to talk more and he's unwilling to do so.
A story is related in which a gang breaks out one of their members, sets fire to the building in which he was held, and pays off a sharpshooter to intentionally fire his gun inaccurately.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Wolfe drinks quite a bit of beer and gives his guests alcohol. Archie drinks some whiskey. Someone's tone is said to be able to "have been used to ice a highball". A story is related in which a group of young men are "half drunk or maybe more". A man is said to have a hangover.
A client chews a massive wad of tobacco. Three others smoke.
Wolfe tells someone to get a cyanide sandwich, but doesn't mean the cyanide part. Archie takes an aspirin for a headache.

Sexual Content

A man hints that two other characters have relations and later outright accuses the male in question of having a sensual appetite and the woman of having a hold over the male. Archie asks another to confirm it, but is told that the female in question is too clever to be anybody's mistress. The statement is also denied by another character, though it seems the lady had "practiced" flirting and is sorry to have caught the attentions of a particular man. Another man is briefly described as sensual and has had three wives.
Archie takes a liking to a woman shortly after having met her, calling her the "ideal of his dreams" and notes that the throat of a too-large dressing gown was beginning to open a little and expose some of the lady's shoulders. He also refers to her once as a nymph. When giving policemen a hard time, he jokes that he could dress up in an "old mother hubbard" and pretend to be a woman for a bit.
It's made very clear that a couple is sweet on each other, but they're not inappropriate.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

There is mention of Wolfe and Archie gambling by playing darts. Another man is said to be an excellent poker player.
"He--" appears twenty-eight times, including its use in various phrases. God's name is used in phrases such as "I wish to God" and other oaths a few times. "D--n" and "h---" are used about thirty times each and used in both on their own and in phrases ("d--n" is also once paired with "God"). Two characters are called an "a--"; another a jacka--; another is called an idiot a couple times. Someone is instructed to kick someone in the a--. "D--k" is used multiple times to refer to policemen. Archie mentions at one point that in a certain situation, he would have normally engaged in a cussing battle. There is a single use of the British cussword "bloody". There are a couple of cases in which unrecorded cusswords are uttered.

Conclusion

If Sherlock Holmes and John Watson lived in mid-20th-century America and went through some changes, they might look something like Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.
Unlike the Sherlock Holmes stories though, there seems to be more greys than straight-out blacks-and-whites. On the one hand, I found it reflective of reality; on the other hand, I kind of wanted the at least somewhat simpler world of Sherlock Holmes. Another difference is that I feel as though the Sherlock Holmes stories gives more clues than this, but that may just be a mistaken first impression.
Either way, it's an interesting mystery to unravel with a diverse cast of characters to make sure that things remain interesting.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 3.5
Written for Age: adult

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