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Literature / Three Doors To Death

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Rex Stout's fourth collection of Nero Wolfe novellas, published in 1950.

"Man Alive" opens with clothing designer and model Cynthia Nieder hiring Wolfe to investigate why she saw her uncle Paul alive at one of her fashion shows, when Paul committed suicide a year before. While Archie fails to see Paul at the next show, Cynthia does shortly afterward - dead in his office, struck on the head and stabbed repeatedly in the face with a window pole. Investigation of the Daumery & Nieder firm reveals that Paul is not the only recently-deceased founder of the firm, as Jean Daumery fell off a fishing boat weeks before, while it is unclear if or how anyone knew that Paul Nieder was actually alive. It takes forgery and coercion for Wolfe to reveal the murderer's location and unmask the culprit.

"Omit Flowers" sees Marko Vukcic request a favor from Wolfe: Virgil Pompa, a chef who traded in his integrity to work for the restaurant chain AMBROSIA, has been arrested for stabbing new AMBROSIA head Floyd Britten to death, and Vukcic knows Pompa would not stab a man In the Back. Using the name of Britten's mistress Julie Irving to gain access to the Britten household, Archie finds Britten's wife near death from a stab wound and has her brought to the brownstone. With a family willing to lie for each other, Wolfe must find the truth behind obfuscation to clear a man who was once a great chef.

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Finally, in "Door to Death," Wolfe travels to Westchester County in an attempt to hire Andy Krasicki, gardener for the household of Joseph Pitcairn, as a replacement for the absent Theodore Horstmann. While they find Krasicki, they also find Dini Lauer, Krasicki's newly betrothed, gassed to death in the greenhouse. When the uncooperative Westchester police lock in on Krasicki as the murderer and take him away, Wolfe's desperation for a gardener leads him, Archie, and Saul on a hike through the woods behind the Pitcairn estate in an attempt to steal a confession out of the uncooperative Pitcairns.

A Nero Wolfe Mystery adapted "Door to Death" during its first season.


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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.)

  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Both the Brittens and the Pitcairns, with children dependent on and willing to lie for their parents. Both families also contain a murderer among their midst.
  • Everyone Can See It: Based on his niece's descriptions, Paul Nieder's attraction to his business partner's wife is obvious to everyone around them.
  • Faking the Dead: Done by Paul Nieder, suspecting that his life was in danger, and by Jean Daumery, who wanted him dead.
  • In the Back: Floyd Britten was stabbed from behind while sitting at a table. This is enough to convince Marko Vukcic of Virgil Pompa's innocence, as Pompa would never stab a man like a coward.
  • Mr. Exposition: Andy's assistant Gus, who is eager to see Andy exonerated, serves as Wolfe and Archie's source of information about the dirty secrets of the Pitcairn family and Dini Lauer.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Double Subverted in Door to Death. Wolfe makes a long, uncomfortable trip to the countryside to bribe gardener Andy Krasicki to leave his job and work for Wolfe. The man has already decided to accept Wolfe's previous offer and was about to send a letter saying so. However, their arrival does prove to be convenient when the gardener is falsely accused of murder.
  • Wham Line: Wolfe starts with four suspects in ''Man Alive": Bernard Daumery, Polly Zarella, Henry Demarest, and Ward Roper. Demarest is the first one Wolfe asks for an alibi, and his reply reveals that all four suspects have an airtight alibi and the killer is someone else.
    Demarest: Last evening, Tuesday, Mr. Daumery, Miss Zarella, and Mr. Roper dined with me in a restaurant, and then we all went to Mr. Daumery's apartment to continue our discussion. Mr. Roper wanted a new contract. My wife was with us. We were together continuously, all five of us, from half-past seven to well after midnight.
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