Review: Robert Goldsborough’s off-key Murder in E Minor

Murder in E MinorMurder in E Minor by Robert Goldsborough
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The dilemma: Why would anyone but a devoted Rex Stout fan read another author’s sequel to the Stout’s long, glorious Nero Wolfe series? Yet why would any other author grab Stout’s mantel except to cash in on his success? I picked up this book looking for something I could be pretty sure I wouldn’t find. The core of the series’s appeal — narrator Archie Goodwin’s voice — is patently inimitable.

Robert Goldsborough makes a dogged attempt in Murder in E Minor, but his ear is off. He knows his “facts”: the location & layout of the old brownstone, who the supporting characters are, & what happened in some previous Wolfe-Goodwin cases, particularly the final one. His narrator’s voice, though, grates. As for Nero Wolfe, he sounds like a computer-generated robot whose program needs tweaking. Reading this book is like listening to a note-perfect violin sonata played with 1 or 2 strings out of tune.

OK, I’m biased: as a devoted Stout fan & a mystery writer, my response to missing Wolfe, Goodwin, et al. was to give Archie a journalist daughter who narrates her own series (see book 1, Silent Night Violent Night; book 2 will be out in Spring 2017). Although I was tempted to quit reading Murder in E Minor on page one, I didn’t. Goldsborough’s command of the Stout oeuvre is encyclopedic, & his plotting & pacing are good. That combination kept me from hating this book. But since Goldsborough’s Goodwin & Wolfe are even more unlike Stout’s fictional detectives than Timothy Hutton & Maury Chaykin’s were in the TV series, I won’t read another one.

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