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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wolfe at Large? A Woman in the Kitchen? Confound It!
Rex Stout's 9th Nero Wolfe outing is the first to contain more than one story. The novellas "Black Orchids" and "Cordially Invited to Death" reveal Stout at his best.
In "Black Orchids," Wolfe endures the perils involved in leaving the brownstone to attend a flower show. Ah, yet this is no ordinary flower show, but one in which the world's only black orchids are on...
Published on January 21, 2003 by A. Wolverton

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Most interesting for showing Wolfe at his worst.
BLACK ORCHIDS is a two novella set where the reader gets to see Wolfe show off some of his worst traits. The title tale sends us to a flower show where Wolfe's lust for Lewis Hewitt's title creations causes him to behave in a manner that is so sycophantic that Archie is sickened by the display. The murder that occurs and Wolfe's scheming to get a hold of the...
Published on March 17, 2007 by J. Carroll


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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wolfe at Large? A Woman in the Kitchen? Confound It!, January 21, 2003
By 
A. Wolverton (Crofton, MD United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Rex Stout's 9th Nero Wolfe outing is the first to contain more than one story. The novellas "Black Orchids" and "Cordially Invited to Death" reveal Stout at his best.
In "Black Orchids," Wolfe endures the perils involved in leaving the brownstone to attend a flower show. Ah, yet this is no ordinary flower show, but one in which the world's only black orchids are on display. Wolfe has as much fun as his enormous envy will allow until someone is murdered at the show.
The second story, "Cordially Invited to Death" is a fun romp for both Wolfe and Archie, but not for the murderer of a woman who organizes lavish parties. And Wolfe even (gasp!) allows a woman in the kitchen!
Stout's first eight Wolfe stories all contain good cases, interesting characters, and tough knots for Wolfe's sharp mind to untangle, but with BLACK ORCHIDS Wolfe and Archie finally find themselves. Their characteristics, mannerisms, and attitudes have been refined and honed to perfection. Stout was on it.
As other reviewers have noted, "Cordially Invited to Death" contains a mystery within a mystery. I wouldn't dream of spoiling it for you, so jump in and enjoy a couple of wonderful Nero Wolfe adventures. You won't be sorry.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Featuring the rarest hybrids of them all, May 18, 2002
By 
Michele L. Worley (Kingdom of the Mouse, United States) - See all my reviews
If the phrase "Black Dahlia" just came to mind, put it aside. Both stories herein are set during 1941 - in March and August, respectively, before Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into WWII. (This was the 1st Wolfe short story collection; those covering the war years can be found in NOT QUITE DEAD ENOUGH and TROUBLE IN TRIPLICATE). As Archie points out in his comments before, between, and after the stories herein, the only common thread between the stories is the presence of the black orchids in each story, and if you think the *cases* are the only mystery, then you don't know one when you see one.

"Black Orchids" - Marks the first on-stage appearance of Lewis Hewitt, Wolfe's friend from Long Island - if orchid fanciers who grow for show can have friends. :) Wolfe dislikes leaving the brownstone on West 35th Street for any reason whatever, but Lewis Hewitt's black orchids - the only three in the world - are currently on display at the Flower Show, and Archie's daily reports on their condition aren't enough to assuage an advanced case of orchid envy. Since Fritz and Theodore are both kept busy in the plant rooms and kitchen respectively, Archie wasn't surprised at being sent, but there were compensations - Rucker and Dill, the big seed & nursery company, dressed up their exhibit with a couple having a picnic every afternoon, and Archie threatens to marry Anne Tracy (he's not the only one - showcasing her legs by the little stream every afternoon has brought a lot of offers). But by the end of the day's showing, it isn't Anne, but her partner in the exhibit who's found shot dead in full view of the crowd.

"Cordially Invited To Meet Death" - Bess Huddleston, 1st class caterer, starts at a disadvantage in approaching Wolfe as a client - she once tried to hire him to play detective for a murder game at a party ($2000 for a few hours work, all the beer he could drink, and $500 for Archie), and it offended him that anyone still existed who didn't know about his no-leaving-the-house-on-business rule, apart from hurt pride at being offered such a job. But this time it's serious: an anonymous letter-writer has been sending letters with scandalous accusations to her clientele, naming *her* as the source of information; if it isn't stopped quickly, she'll be ruined professionally. Of course, with Wolfe and Archie involved, it will never in a million years end there...
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Orchids, by the Unsurpassed Master of Mystery, August 1, 2000
By 
M Carter (Wapakoneta, OH United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Black Orchids (Paperback)
Black Orchids is one of Rex Stout's best. The genius detective, Nero Wolfe, has his horticultural jealousy aroused because a rival has developed and is showing the first black orchids ever at The New York Flower Show! The handsome Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's assistant and a detective in his own right, is sent to see them four days in a row. But finally Wolfe, who never leaves his home on business and rarely for pleasure, "assumes the expression of a man prepared to brave all hardship or hazard for the sake of a Cause" and attends the flower show to "look at those confounded freaks for myself." Naturally, murder soon follows, and Archie is implicated! Wolfe's fee for solving the murder is the black orchids, but to earn them, he must find a way to keep Archie off of the witness stand. A lot of interesting twists follow, keeping the reader riveted.
Archie is the man-around-town-in-the-know, and his relationship to Wolfe is complex and amusing. Archie kow-tows to Wolfe, as is proper for an underling in the early 1940's (when the book was originally published. The book is in its 11th printing!). However, he is as irrepressible and timeless as Huck Finn and as uniquely American. He shines as a cavalier, a detective, and a loyal employee. The other characters sparkle. The book is a must for any Nero Wolfe fan or for any mystery enthusiast. Stout's writing is, as always, entertaining, amusing, and witty. This is a book you can read often, even after you know "who'dun it."
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Tales but a Trio of Mysteries, July 26, 2002
By 
George R Dekle "Bob Dekle" (Lake City, FL United States) - See all my reviews
Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe story collections usually have two things in common: Each collection presents a trilogy of stories and the stories in the trilogy share a common theme. "Trio for Blunt Instruments" is quite typical of the lot. Three stories with three murders committed with blunt instruments.
"Black Orchids" seemingly departs from the norm. There are only two stories, but each involves black orchids.
The first story, "Black Orchids," has Wolfe leaving his brownstone. Business doesn't bring him forth, it is envy. There is a flower show at which a rival is showing rare black orchids. Wolfe is green with envy. He sends Archie to view them and report, but word-of-mouth proves insufficient. Wolfe has to see them for himself. While Wolfe is at the show, someone is murdered and the owner of the black orchids stands to be horribly embarrassed if not arrested. Wolfe undertakes to rescue the owner for a small fee--the black orchids. Of course, he pulls it off, otherwise he couldn't have sent black orchids to the funeral of the victim in the second mystery.
In "Cordially Invited to Meet Death," a party arranger calls on Nero Wolfe, but contracts tetanus and dies before she can pay his fee. Relatives have a way of thinking that the most innocent of unexpected deaths are homicide, and one of the victim's relatives raises sand with the police trying to get them to investigate the case as a murder. Not getting satisfaction, he then retains Nero Wolfe. A little looksee into the circumstances of the death confirms the relative's suspicions.
The cast of suspects is limited, but figuring out whodunnit is a tough nut to crack. With Archie Goodwin's help, Wolfe sorts through the clues, confounds the police, and reveals the killer. Of course, Wolfe's too much of a homebody to go to the arranger's funeral, so he sends Archie in his place. When Archie sees the spray of black orchids, he knows only one person in the whole wide world could have sent it. Which leads us to the third mystery. What prompted Wolfe to send those flowers? Archie offers a few conjectures, but Wolfe is mum. The reader is left to his own devices in solving this third mystery.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is for the text version, January 3, 2001
By 
Ann E. Nichols (Sierra Vista, AZ United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Black Orchids (Audio Cassette)
BLACK ORCHIDS is number nine in Nero Wolfe series and the first to contain shorter novels put together. The first is "Black Orchids" Fond as I am of the fat genius, I must admit that this adventure showcases the less-admirable qualities of his complex character. It's not true that Nero Wolfe never leaves his house on business, but it rarely happens. Wolfe probably would not have attended this flower show. He hates car rides and he hates being touched (which is bound to happen with crowds) However, the three black orchid hybrids produced by Lewis Hewitt, Long Island millionaire and Old Money gentleman, have filled Wolfe with "an agony of envy", as Archie puts it. Wolfe needs to see these plants for himself, which is too bad for the killer. Why? Mr. Hewitt could have a nasty scandal about him if the killer isn't found. Wolfe has failed to flatter and otherwise bootlick Mr. Hewitt into selling him one of the plants. Now Wolfe shows his unbridled greed by demanding all three of them to solve the case. Archie manages to latch onto an important clue on his own and Wolfe makes good use of it. As usual, Archie's descriptions are colorful and amusing, and the interplay between the faithful assistant and his brilliant boss is not to be missed. They know each other so well. I loved the call Archie made to bring Inspector Cramer to the homicide. I also loved the reception smirking Johnny Keems, one of detectives Wolfe sometimes hires, got from Wolfe when he tried to prove that he could be as good as Archie. Some readers might object to the means Wolfe uses to trap the killer as Cramer does, but I happen to agree with Wolfe on the subject. I believe that this was one of Wolfe's best traps. For younger readers, yes, the one female character was quite correct in claiming that her family's honor was at stake. Society has changed. As for the "...pair of vintage Helen Hokinsons from Bronxville" whom Archie meets in chapter two, the 1996 revision of Rev. Frederick G. Gotwald's "The Nero Wolfe Companion No.2" tells us that Ms. Hokinson was an artist whose gently satirical cartoons of society matrons appeared in "The New Yorker" magazine. The second story is "Cordially Invited to Meet Death". Someone is sending nasty anonymous letters to the clients of famous society party-arranger Bess Huddleston and Miss Huddleston wants Nero Wolfe to put a stop to it. Wolfe already has a bit of a grudge against Miss Huddleston from an suggestion she made two years before, but he takes the case. Chapter one ends with an fun exchange defining Archie's role in Wolfe's life that is only partly insulting. In Chapter two we meet the main suspects, Miss Janet Nichols and Miss Maryella Timms, assistant and secretary, respectively, to the client. Archie doesn't like Miss Timms' Southern accent, but the lady manages to earn one of the most cordial and respectful treatments Wolfe is ever seen giving a woman. In the next chapter we're treated to Archie's meeting with the chimp and one of the alligators kept at the Huddleston place, not to mention the incident that leads to the death in the title. It's an ugly one that should have some readers wanting to make sure their shots are current. The death is being written off as a very sad accident, but the victim's brother insists that it was murder. Is he right? Don't miss the scene where Archie tails one of the suspects -- it's worth a laugh. Even after Nero Wolfe solves the mystery, a mystery remains. Archie lays it out for the reader and gives us his own choice. You may or may not agree with him. By the way, the same "Nero Wolfe Companion" gives a woman named Elsa Maxwell as the model for Bess Huddleston, and states that she wrote a book titled R.S.V.P. if you want to know more about her. BLACK ORCHIDS is one of my personal favorites. If you prefer text to audio versions of books, ..., to get yourself a copy. The most recent edition, as of this writing, is the 1992 Bantam reissue. It has a special introduction by Lawrence Block and a reproduction of the cover to the first Bantam edition if you like memorabilia. If you have your heart set on a hardcover copy, be warned that they're much harder to come by than the paperback versions.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Most interesting for showing Wolfe at his worst., March 17, 2007
By 
BLACK ORCHIDS is a two novella set where the reader gets to see Wolfe show off some of his worst traits. The title tale sends us to a flower show where Wolfe's lust for Lewis Hewitt's title creations causes him to behave in a manner that is so sycophantic that Archie is sickened by the display. The murder that occurs and Wolfe's scheming to get a hold of the aforementioned orchids are only interesting from the insight that Stout gives us into Wolfe's character. While Wolfe's various flaws are often mentioned by Goodwin, to see them in action is intriguing. The less said about the actual mechanics of the highly unlikely murder the better. Suffice to say it is one of the least likely murders in the series and that's saying something.

The second novella, CORDIALLY INVITED TO MEET DEATH deals with a death via tetanus, an estate with wild animals, (Did Stout know Trudy Lintz, the model for the movie BUDDY?) and the best scenes with an exasperated Archie dealing with these problems and Wolfe's fascination with one of the suspect's ability to add to Fritz and Wolfe's recipes. The final scenes of Archie storming out after being offered a julep will bring a smile to your face. A pair of slight mysteries with a lack of intrigue, but still worth a read for a fan.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Orchids Strong, Party Far-Fetched, December 8, 2011
This, the first of Rex Stout's many published story/novella collections, contains two entrees: "Black Orchids," which is outstanding, and "Cordially Invited to Meet Death," which is worth reading because all Nero Wolfe mysteries are, in my opinion, worth reading, but which is a bit far-fetched as far as plot goes.

In "Black Orchids" Wolfe leaves his brownstone in order to attend an event which features three extremely rare black orchids: the only ones in the world. There somebody is murdered by a gun hidden within the plants and triggered by a tug of a string. The owner of the black orchids is horrified, fearing that his name and reputation will be ruined. Wolfe, who covets the black orchids, says he will solve the murder IF he can have the black orchids.

Although "Cordially Invited to Meet Death" isn't as good as the first story, it contains one of my favorite Wolfe-in-the-kitchen scenes. As Wolfe and Fritz discuss the problems of cooking corned beef, one of the suspects Wolfe has told to wait in his office enters the kitchen and gives advice. This suspect is a woman, and Wolfe is horrified -- but then he is won over by her culinary skills specific to chitlins and corned beef. A great scene: Stout must have delighted in writing it. The story itself concerns a woman who organizes lavish parties for wealthy clientele. She also keeps exotic animals in her house, and one of them, a chimpanzee, attacks her butler. In Archie's presence. What happens then leads to a death a week later. The story is worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rare flowers and rare occurrences, November 19, 2008
By 
Jeanne Tassotto (Trapped in the Midwest) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
BLACK ORCHIDS is an unusual Nero Wolfe volume for many reasons. To begin with, this is not a single novel but is instead two novellas written and set in 1941 and 1942 involving the aforementioned rare orchids. In the first story a rival orchid grower has managed to produce three black orchids which he has on display at the flower show. Wolfe has sent Archie to the show each day to observe and then report on details of these rare flowers. Finally, driven to desperate measures Wolfe himself goes to the show to see the plants for himself. Wolfe's behavior as he attempts to gain the rival orchid grower's favor annoys Archie to no end but when Archie notices that a murder has occurred in one of the exhibits he and Wolfe spring into action to solve the crime, and move the rare flowers to their proper home atop the brownstone.

The second novella continues the story of the black orchids, or at least some of them. A successful society party planner, Bess Huddleston, who has had less than happy dealings with Wolfe in the past contacts him for help in dealing with a rather odd form of black mail. It seems as though someone is out to destroy her reputation by sending letters to clients charging her with indiscretions, the odd part is that Miss Huddleston believes she knows who is sending the letters, she just needs Wolfe's help in proving it, and making them stop. Before the investigation gets very far along though the woman is murdered right before Archie's eyes but in such a way that it is days before he realizes the crime has taken place. In the end though the culprit is unmasked in a particularly dramatic manner that involves all the members of Wolfe's unusual household.

These are excellent Nero Wolfe stories, ones that will appeal to both long time fans and those new to the series. The problems are clever and complex enough to keep the reader guessing right along with Archie. There is also enough of the subplot involving the day to day life in the brownstone to delight long term fans. Of particular interest are the scenes involving Wolfe not only allowing a female in the kitchen but also accepting her instructions in cooking, a most rare occurrence to be sure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have been a Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin addict for years, May 27, 2014
By 
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This review is from: Black Orchids (A Nero Wolfe Mystery Book 9) (Kindle Edition)
My mother read these when I was a little girl. Her descriptions of Archie Goodwin always made me laugh. As an adult, I have read my extensive collection several times, and am now enjoying Michael Pritchard's narration in audio versions of the books. As the pages disintegrate with age and use, I am collecting them on my Kindle, too. This one is has two stories, quality storytelling all the way. Spoiler alert! This is the one where Archie pulls the trigger!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I didn't figure it out before the end..., April 2, 2009
By 
Beth (GLOVERSVILLE, NY, United States) - See all my reviews
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The Black Orchids is actually two related stories that involve, of course, black orchids. They are, as per the usual, driven by Nero's pride and the antagonism between Archie and Nero, which is a personal favorite element in this character-driven series. At the end of the second story, one is still unclear on everyone's involvement in the murder, but again, that's another draw of this series...at least in my opinion, not everything always wraps up nicely.
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