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Literature / Over My Dead Body

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A 1940 mystery novel by Rex Stout, and seventh in the Nero Wolfe series.

Nero Wolfe's bank balance is looking pretty healthy for once, so he's not looking for work. And he's definitely not looking for work from Carla Lovchen, an imperious young fencing instructor and illegal immigrant from Montenegro, who wants Wolfe to clear her friend of a wrongful accusation of theft. But things get complicated when Carla's friend — Neya Tormic, a fellow instructor and immigrant — claims to be Wolfe's long-lost daughter, whom he adopted but lost contact with during the political chaos following World War One. The threat of scandal would be enough to prompt Wolfe into action, but during her visit Carla also secreted a letter inside one of Wolfe's books, concerning mysterious negotiations over Yugoslavian forestry rights. This leads Wolfe and Archie Goodwin into a tangled affair of political intrigue, greedy bankers, ruthless agents and, of course, murder...


A Nero Wolfe Mystery adapted Over My Dead Body in two parts as its Season 1 finale.

Tropes in this work: (Tropes relating to the series as a whole, or to the characters in general can be found on Nero Wolfe and its subpages.)

  • Acrofatic: At the end, Wolfe demonstrates when he is attacked by a psychotically furious Neya, by smashing her wrist and skull with a pair of beer bottles. His attacker presumably didn't see it coming.
  • Adopted into Royalty: Downplayed and implied by the backstory; after losing contact with Wolfe, Wolfe's daughter appears to have been adopted by a servant of royalty, thus making her more Adopted into Service of Royalty. She's still become a close confidant of the royal in question, however. Close enough that the royal has learned of her connection to Nero Wolfe and has decided to try and exploit it if necessary.
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  • Ambiguously Related: Sort of; Wolfe claims to be the adoptive father of his daughter, but there are enough hints to suggest at a closer blood relation if the reader chooses to accept them.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The princess and her husband are not beloved figures back home and are commonly believed to have sold out to American interests, with Wolfe also wondering if their involved in the murder.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Throughout the novel it's been hinted that Carla is the princess in America for sinister secret business, and Neya is Wolfe's daughter held by her in captive servitude. Turns out, it's actually the other way around.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Barretts, who show a keen interest in exploiting the recourses of Bosnia and provide the killer with a false alibi.
  • Disappeared Dad: We see this from the other side than usual; Wolfe appears to be this to his daughter, who was left in Montenegro when Wolfe went to America. In Wolfe's defence, he intended to support her financially while making his fortune in America, but a combination of the unstable post-war political situation and guardians who turned out to be less trustworthy than he thought meant that he lost contact with her and was unable to find her again.
  • Exact Words: Much is made throughout the novel of how a client of Nero Wolfe's has never been proven, charged or convicted of murder. By the end of this novel, this remains true. But mainly because Wolfe dismisses Neya as his client before revealing to the police that she was guilty of the murders.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Wolfe fractures Neya's skull and wrist in self-defense with a pair of beer bottles when she charges at him with a knife.
  • Hero of Another Story: Etherlbert Hitchcock, Wolfe's European contact. This book reveals that there's is a quid pro quo relationship, and that sometimes Wolfe looks into information in America for Hitchock's European cases just like Hitchcock does for Wolfe's cases which have information in Europe (although none of Hitchcock's cases are ever shown in the series).
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Occurs off-screen. Inspector Cramer gripes that he's getting pressure from federal and state authorities to clear the matter up because the victim, Percy Ludlow, was an employee of the British consulate and no one wants the political strife this will create. Ironically, the one federal employee we see — Agent Stahl of the FBI — has absolutely nothing to do with the investigation in question.
  • No Party Given: The exact nation and political party that Rudolf Faber is acting as an agent for is never explicitly identified. However, given his Germanic name, his rather obnoxious and insufferable attitude, the fact that he is clearly Up To No Good and Rex Stout's passionate loathing of fascism, it is pretty clear that he is supposed to be representing Nazi Germany.
  • Running Gag: An FBI agent, Stahl, keeps showing up at Wolfe's office to question him regarding his status as an agent of foreign principals as part of some bureaucratic process relating to a change in the law. Everytime he does, something has happened which means that Wolfe's answers have somehow changed from the last time he showed up, meaning Stahl has to leave again to get clarification before he can proceed further.
  • Series Continuity Error: A (sort of) invoked example. For the first and only time in the series, Nero Wolfe is identified as an American rather than an immigrant to America from Montenegro. This was reportedly the result of rather nationalist hectoring that Rex Stout's publishers had been receiving over Wolfe's origins, leading them to pressure Stout into making him American; although heavily resistant to the idea (particularly as the plot revolves around Wolfe's daughter being Montenegrin herself), Stout eventually got sick of all the fuss and went Sure, Let's Go with That just to shut them up. This gradually became Canon Discontinuity, and whenever Wolfe's origins are referred to again he's clearly established to be Montenegrin.

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