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Literature / The Black Mountain

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Rex Stout's seventeenth Nero Wolfe novel, published in 1954.

As Archie is about to depart the brownstone, he receives a call from Sergeant Purley Stebbins: Wolfe's oldest friend Marko Vukcic has been shot and killed outside his apartment. After Wolfe pays his respects, he learns from his adopted daughter Carla Britton (nee Lovchen) that both she and Marko have been involved in a Montenegrian independence movement. When a European informant informs Wolfe that Vukcic's killer is in Montenegro and Carla has returned to her homeland, only to be slain herself, the famously stationary detective is moved not just from his brownstone, but from the continent, diving headlong into political suspense in order to track down a murderer and bring him to America to face justice.


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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: Despite his size and repeated complaints about sore feet, Wolfe hikes for miles through the mountains of Yugoslavia.
  • Asshole Victim: No one mourns when Danilo Vukcic has Jube Bilic killed.
  • Back for the Dead: Both Marko Vukcic and Carla Britton.
  • Coins for the Dead: When visiting the morgue to identify Marko's body, Wolfe receives permission to place two old coins over his friend's eyes, something he had long ago promised to do.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Wolfe's old friend Paolo Telesio.
    Archie: I was willing to keep my mind open on whether Telesio was to be trusted as a brother, but in less than a mile it was already closed about trusting him as a chauffeur. Apparently, he had some secret assurance that all obstructions ahead, animate or inanimate, would disappear before he got there, and when one didn't and he was about to make contact, his split second reaction was very gay.
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  • Mood Whiplash: Wolfe and Archie's solemn tragical reflection about the murder of a close friend and major recurring character is humorously interrupted when Archie observes that Wolfe needs directions to find the Manhattan morgue despite the decades he's spent solving murders.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: While most of the stories are armchair-detective-meets-noirish-gumshoe murder mysteries, this one is more of an adventure story with elements of a 1950s Cold War spy thriller bolted onto it.
  • Spanner in the Works: Wolfe tricks Peter Zov into returning to the U.S. by making him believe that he (as in Wolfe) is going to take over Marko's role as funder of the Montenegrin independence movement, and Archie suspects he intends to expose him as a murderer only once Zov has entered the brownstone to dispatch Wolfe. That plan only lasts as far as the New York harbor, where a press photographer recognizes Wolfe, allowing Zov to shoot him in the leg before being restrained.
  • Swapped Roles: Since most of the story takes place in Montenegro and many conversations take place in Serbo-Croat, which Wolfe speaks fluently but Archie doesn't, Wolfe has to report to Archie in order to keep him in the loop. Archie includes a warning prefacing the story alerting the reader of this.
  • Unseen No More: Wolfe's European contact Mr. Hitchcock makes his only physical appearance in the series.
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