|Cover artist||Robert Hallock|
|October 20, 1947|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
|Pages||251 pp. (first edition)|
|Preceded by||The Silent Speaker|
|Followed by||And Be a Villain|
Too Many Women is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published in 1947 by the Viking Press. The novel was also collected in the omnibus volume All Aces (Viking 1958).
I told him I was Archie Goodwin, the heart, liver, lungs, and gizzard of the private detective business of Nero Wolfe, Wolfe being merely the brains. He asked sarcastically if I was a genius too, and I told him no indeed, I was comparatively human.— Archie Goodwin converses with the prospective client in Too Many Women, chapter 1
A malcontent at the Naylor-Kerr corporation charges that one of its employees, thought to have been killed in a hit-and-run accident, was actually murdered. The president of the giant New York firm hires Archie to look for proof one way or another, in the guise of a personnel consultant in the corporation's executive offices — where 500 beautiful women are employed.
When a major engineering corporation conducts a survey into high employee turnover, a report is returned claiming that Waldo Moore, an employee recently killed in what was believed to be a hit-and-run accident, was murdered. The company president, Jasper Pine, approaches Nero Wolfe and hires him to find out whether this claim is true. Archie Goodwin is sent undercover as an outside consultant and assigned to investigate the stock department, where Moore worked, and is amazed to discover 500 beautiful women employed as secretaries and assistants.
Archie discovers that Moore was notorious among the employees as a lothario but had become engaged to Hester Livsey, a stenographer. He quickly identifies numerous possible suspects for Moore's murder — in addition to Livsey, these include Rosa Bendini, who had enjoyed a dalliance with Moore; Bendini's jealous estranged husband Harold Anthony; Gwynne Ferris, who had tried to seduce Moore but was rebuffed; Benjamin Frenkel, a supervisor who had developed feelings for Ferris and had been rebuffed; and Sumner Hoff, a hot-headed technical advisor who had gotten into a physical fight with Moore, which was believed to be over Livsey. As gossip begins to spread among the employees about Archie's true mission, he begins to clash with Kerr Naylor, the eccentric and unpleasant department supervisor who lodged the initial report claiming that Moore was murdered.
During one confrontation, Naylor reveals that he knows Archie's true identity, and that Moore had been given his job due to the intervention of Naylor's sister Cecily, who is also married to Jasper Pine. Naylor and Cecily are the children of one of the founders of the company, and Naylor resents Pine being promoted over him. Naylor also claims that he knows the identity of Moore's murderer, but when Archie reveals this in a report to the company directors he changes his story and claims Archie was lying. Cecily Pine meets with Wolfe, asking him to drop the investigation.
When an article about Wolfe's investigation appears in the newspapers, Inspector Cramer confronts Wolfe in his office about what he knows. The increasingly heated and childish argument is interrupted by a phone call for Cramer; Kerr Naylor has been found dead, killed in a seeming hit-and-run accident in exactly the same manner and location that Waldo Moore had been found. The similarity of the deaths and the location remove any doubt that both men have been the victim of homicide. Wolfe had previously assigned Saul Panzer to shadow Naylor and, while Saul had lost the tail before Naylor's murder, Saul managed to witness Naylor arguing with Hester Livsey hours before his death, with Sumner Hoff also present at the scene.
The company directors hire Wolfe to solve the murder of Kerr Naylor in addition to Waldo Moore. Archie hints to Livsey that he is aware of her meeting with Naylor prior to his death, and her suspicious reaction convinces him that she knows even more of the matter than she has let on. Archie persuades her to come to Wolfe's office for an interview, but Sumner Hoff tags along, suspicious and confrontational towards both Archie and Wolfe. When Wolfe challenges them regarding her meeting with Naylor, both claim that they were with each other at the time, concocting an overly detailed story as corroboration. While the lie is obvious, it is also sufficiently unbreakable to completely stall the investigation.
Insulted by the transparency of Livsey's lie, Wolfe concocts a plan to expose the truth. Archie stages a meeting with Livsey which, with Archie's prodding, quickly results in the rumour spreading that Livsey knows the identity of the murderer. Livsey eventually cracks under the pressure and insists that she will reveal the truth to anyone other than Jasper Pine. Archie convinces her to accompany him to the brownstone for her protection, where Wolfe summons Cecily Pine by informing her that he knows who the murderer is.
When she arrives, Cecily Pine confirms Wolfe's suspicions—the murderer was her husband, Jasper Pine. Pine and Livsey had begun a clandestine affair, but Pine had become increasingly obsessed with her. Although unbothered by the actual affair, Cecily had begun to worry that her husband's obsession was threatening their comfortable lifestyle, and so persuaded Moore to seduce Livsey away from her husband. When Moore and Livsey ended up falling in love, Pine was driven to a jealous rage and murdered Moore. Cecily confided in her brother, and Naylor used the information to try and force Pine out of the company presidency and seize it for himself, but Pine murdered him.
Before the authorities can be notified, Wolfe receives news that Jasper Pine has committed suicide. Wolfe and Archie realise that Cecily contacted her husband before meeting Wolfe, and manipulated him into taking his own life. The investigation is closed, and Archie ends the novel by arranging a simultaneous date with Hester Livsey, Rosa Bendini and Gwynne Ferris.
The resolution to this Nero Wolfe case is made significantly more difficult by two events that border on impossibility within the Nero Wolfe universe: 1) Saul Panzer loses a tail, and 2) Fritz forgets to give Archie a message. All of the principal characters in the novel are aghast at how astronomically unlikely each of these events is by itself, never mind both of them occurring in a short period of time.
Inspector Cramer, who always assumes Wolfe is keeping vital information from him, is perhaps most convinced of that in this Nero Wolfe story than in any other, since to take what Wolfe and Archie are telling him at face value, he must believe that these two "impossible" events took place (even though they actually did).
Nero Wolfe is a fictional character, a brilliant, oversized, eccentric armchair detective created in 1934 by American mystery writer Rex Stout. Wolfe was born in Montenegro and keeps his past murky. He lives in a luxurious brownstone on West 35th Street in New York City, and he is loath to leave his home for business or anything that would keep him from reading his books, tending his orchids, or eating the gourmet meals prepared by his chef, Fritz Brenner. Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's sharp-witted, dapper young confidential assistant with an eye for attractive women, narrates the cases and does the legwork for the detective genius.
Archie Goodwin is a fictional character in Rex Stout's mysteries. The witty narrator of all the stories, he recorded the cases of his boss, Nero Wolfe, from 1934 (Fer-de-Lance) to 1975.
Might as Well Be Dead is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1956. The story was also collected in the omnibus volume Three Aces.
The Silent Speaker is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, first published by the Viking Press in 1946. It was published just after World War II, and key plot elements reflect the lingering effects of the war: housing shortages and restrictions on consumer goods, including government regulation of prices, featuring the conflict between a federal price regulatory body and a national business association, paralleling the conflicts between the Office of Price Administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.
Too Many Cooks is the fifth Nero Wolfe detective novel by American mystery writer Rex Stout. The story was serialized in The American Magazine before its publication in book form in 1938 by Farrar & Rinehart, Inc. The novel was collected in the omnibus volume Kings Full of Aces, published in 1969 by the Viking Press.
Before Midnight is a novel by American author Rex Stout, published in 1955 by Viking Press. It is the 25th detective novel featuring curmudgeonly New York sleuth Nero Wolfe, as narrated by sidekick Archie Goodwin. The story was also collected in the omnibus volume Three Trumps.
And Be a Villain is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, first published by the Viking Press in 1948. The story was collected in the omnibus volumes Full House and Triple Zeck.
Some Buried Caesar is the sixth Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout. The story first appeared in abridged form in The American Magazine, under the title "The Red Bull", it was first published as a novel by Farrar & Rinehart in 1939. In 2000 it was included in the list of the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association.
Fer-de-Lance is the first Nero Wolfe detective novel written by Rex Stout, published in 1934 by Farrar & Rinehart, Inc. The novel appeared in abridged form in The American Magazine under the title "Point of Death". The novel was adapted for the 1936 movie Meet Nero Wolfe. In his seminal 1941 work, Murder for Pleasure, crime fiction historian Howard Haycraft included Fer-de-Lance in his definitive list of the most influential works of mystery fiction.
The League of Frightened Men is the second Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout. The story was serialized in six issues of The Saturday Evening Post under the title The Frightened Men. The novel was published in 1935 by Farrar & Rinehart, Inc. The League of Frightened Men is a Haycraft Queen Cornerstone, one of the most influential works of mystery fiction listed by crime fiction historian Howard Haycraft and Ellery Queen.
Murder by the Book is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout published in 1951 by the Viking Press, and collected in the omnibus volume Royal Flush (1965).
Too Many Clients is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1960, and collected in the omnibus volume Three Aces.
Death of a Doxy is a Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, first published by Viking Press in 1966.
Meet Nero Wolfe is a 1936 mystery film based on the 1934 novel Fer-de-Lance, written by Rex Stout. Set in New York, the story introduced the detective genius Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin. The partnership endured through 33 novels and 39 short stories written by Stout, but continued in only one more film for Columbia Pictures. Wolfe's client is portrayed by Rita Hayworth, then billed as Rita Cansino, in an early performance.
"Immune to Murder" is a Nero Wolfe mystery novella by Rex Stout, first published in the November 1955 issue of The American Magazine. It first appeared in book form in the short-story collection Three for the Chair, published by the Viking Press in 1957.
"Instead of Evidence" is a Nero Wolfe mystery novella by Rex Stout, first published in the May 1946 issue of The American Magazine under the title "Murder on Tuesday". It first appeared in book form in the short-story collection Trouble in Triplicate, published by the Viking Press in 1949.
"Counterfeit for Murder" is a Nero Wolfe mystery novella by Rex Stout, first serialized as "The Counterfeiter's Knife" in three issues of The Saturday Evening Post. It first appeared in book form in the short-story collection Homicide Trinity, published by the Viking Press in 1962.
"Murder Is No Joke" is a Nero Wolfe mystery novella by Rex Stout, first published in the 1958 short-story collection And Four to Go.
"The Next Witness" is a Nero Wolfe mystery novella by Rex Stout, first published as "The Last Witness" in the May 1955 issue of The American Magazine. It first appeared in book form in the short-story collection Three Witnesses, published by the Viking Press in 1956.
"The Cop-Killer" is a Nero Wolfe mystery novella by Rex Stout, first published as "The Cop Killer" in the February 1951 issue of The American Magazine. It first appeared in book form in the short-story collection Triple Jeopardy, published by the Viking Press in 1952.