Cover image for Too many cooks
Too many cooks
Stout, Rex, 1886-1975.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Aburn, Ca : AudioPartners, [2000]

Physical Description:
7 audio discs (8 hrs. 22 min. each) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
General Note:
"A Nero Wolfe mystery"--Container.


Compact disc.
Added Author:


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FICTION CD Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks
FICTION CD Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks

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Originally published in 1938, this book follows the gourmand Nero Wolfe to a meeting of the greatest chefs in the world, where he is to be the honored dinner guest. This is a rare vacation for the corpulent sleuth - until a four-star killer serves up a side dish of murder. In order to solve the crime, Wolfe and Goodwin must deal with inept local law enforcement, recalcitrant witnesses, and Wolfe's fervent desire to get back to his orchids and his specially constructed brown leather chair.


Detective genius Nero Wolfe and his assistant, Archie Goodwin, are private investigators based in New York. With Wolfe's unmatchable wits and Archie's tireless legwork, no mystery is unsolvable. Although normally a bit of a shut-in, Wolfe takes a vacation when he is to be the guest of honor at a meeting of the world's best gourmet chefs. However, when someone is murdered at the summit, Wolfe must scramble to find the culprit.

Author Notes

Author Rex Stout was born on December 1, 1886. A child prodigy with a gift for mathematics, Stout drifted as he became an adult, holding odd jobs in many places---cook, cabinetmaker, bellhop, hotel manager, salesman, bookkeeper, and even a guide in a pueblo. But his true talent lay in storytelling; he sold his first story, about William Howard Taft, in 1912. His most famous creation is Nero Wolfe, a 286-pound detective genius who, with sidekick Archie Goodwin, can often solve a case without leaving his room. It is the way in which the puzzle is solved that intrigues Nero Wolfe, who is much like Sherlock Holmes in his ability to use deductive reasoning. More than 60 million copies (in 24 languages) of Stout's books have been sold. Stout writes quickly, drawing upon a lifetime of impressions. He neither uses an outline nor revises; he lets his characters take over as the story develops. The classy, erudite Nero Wolfe presents for readers an alternative to the hard-boiled branch of the genre. He died on October 27, 1975

(Bowker Author Biography)



1   WALKING up and down the platform alongside the train in the Pennsylvania Station, having wiped the sweat from my brow, I lit a cigarette with the feeling that after it had calmed my nerves a little I would be prepared to submit bids for a contract to move the Pyramid of Cheops from Egypt to the top of the Empire State Building with my bare hands, in a swimming-suit; after what I had just gone through. But as I was drawing in the third puff I was stopped by a tapping on a window I was passing, and, leaning to peer through the glass, I was confronted by a desperate glare from Nero Wolfe, from his seat in the bedroom which we had engaged in one of the new-style pullmans, where I had at last got him deposited intact. He shouted at me through the closed window:   "Archie! Confound you! Get in here! They're going to start the train! You have the tickets!"   I yelled back at him, "You said it was too close to smoke in there! It's only 9:32! I've decided not to go! Pleasant dreams!"   I sauntered on. Tickets my eye. It wasn't tickets that bothered him; he was frantic with fear because he was alone on the train and it might begin to move. He hated things that moved, and was fond of arguing that nine times out of ten the places that people were on their way to were no improvement whatever on those they were coming from. But by gum I had got him to the station twenty minutes ahead of time, notwithstanding such items as three bags and two suitcases and two overcoats for a four days' absence in the month of April, Fritz Brenner standing on the stoop with tears in his eyes as we left the house, Theodore Horstmann running out, after we had got Wolfe packed in the sedan, to ask a few dozen more questions about the orchids, and even tough little Saul Panzer, after dumping us at the station, choking off a tremolo as he told Wolfe goodbye. You might have thought we were bound for the stratosphere to shine up the moon and pick wild stars.   At that, just as I flipped my butt through the crack between the train and the platform, I could have picked a star right there--or at least touched one. She passed by close enough for me to get a faint whiff of something that might have come from a perfume bottle but seemed only natural under the circumstances, and while her facial effect might have been technicolor, it too gave you the impression that it was intended that way from the outset and needed no alterations. The one glance I got was enough to show that she was no factory job, but hand-made throughout. Attached to the arm of a tall bulky man in a brown cape and a brown floppy cloth hat, she unhooked herself to precede him and follow the porter into the car back of ours. I muttered to myself, "My heart was all I had and now that's gone, I should have put my bloody blinders on," shrugged with assumed indifference, and entered the vestibule as they began the all aboard.   In our room, Wolfe was on the wide seat by the window, holding himself braced with both hands; but in spite of that they fooled him on the timing, and when the jerk came he lurched forward and back again. From the corner of my eye I saw the fury all over him, decided it was better to ignore realities, got a magazine from my bag and perched on the undersized chair in the corner. Still holding on with both hands, he shouted at me:   "We are due at Kanawha Spa at 11:25 tomorrow morning! Fourteen hours! This car is shifted to another train at Pittsburgh! In case of delay we would have to wait for an afternoon train! Should anything happen to our engine--"   I put in coldly, "I am not deaf, sir. And while you can beef as much as you want to, because it's your own breath if you want to waste it, I do object to your implying either in word or tone that I am in any way responsible for your misery. I made this speech up last night, knowing I would need it. This is your idea, this trip. You wanted to come--at least, you wanted to be at Kanawha Spa. Six months ago you told Vukcic that you would go there on April 6th. Now you regret it. So do I. As far as our engine is concerned, they use only the newest and best on these crack trains, and not even a child--"   We had emerged from under the river and were gathering speed as we clattered through the Jersey yards. Wolfe shouted, "An engine has two thousand three hundred and nine moving parts!"   I put down the magazine and grinned at him, thinking I might as well. He had enginephobia and there was no sense in letting him brood, because it would only make it worse for both of us. His mind had to be switched to something else. But before I could choose a pleasant subject to open up on, an interruption came which showed that while he may have been frantic with fear when I was smoking a cigarette on the platform, he had not been demoralized. There was a rap on the door and it opened to admit a porter with a glass and three bottles of beer on a tray. He pulled out a trick stand for the glass and one bottle, which he opened, put the other two bottles in a rack with an opener, accepted currency from me in payment, and departed. As the train lurched on a curve Wolfe scowled with rage; then, as it took the straightaway again, he hoisted the glass and swallowed once, twice, five times, and set it down empty. He licked his lips for the foam, then wiped them with his handkerchief, and observed with no sign at all of hysterics:   "Excellent. I must remember to tell Fritz my first was precisely at temperature."   "You could wire him from Philadelphia."   "Thank you. I am being tortured and you know it. Would you mind earning your salary, Mr. Goodwin, by getting a book from my bag? Inside Europe, by John Gunther."   I got the bag and fished it out.   By the time the second interruption came, half an hour later, we were rolling smooth and swift through the night in middle Jersey, the three beer bottles were empty, Wolfe was frowning at his book but actually reading, as I could tell by the pages he turned, and I had waded nearly to the end of an article on Collation of Evidence in the Journal of Criminology. I hadn't got much from it, because I was in no condition to worry about collating evidence, on account of my mind being taken up with the problem of getting Nero Wolfe undressed. At home, of course, he did it himself, and equally of course I wasn't under contract as a valet--being merely secretary, bodyguard, office manager, assistant detective, and goat--but the fact remained that in two hours it would be midnight, and there he was with his pants on, and someone was going to have to figure out a way of getting them off without upsetting the train. Not that he was clumsy, but he had had practically no practice at balancing himself while on a moving vehicle, and to pull pants from under him as he lay was out of the question, since he weighed something between 250 and a ton. He had never, so far as I knew, been on a scale, so it was anybody's guess. I was guessing high that night, on account of the problem I was confronted with, and was just ready to settle on 310 as a basis for calculations, when there was a knock on the door and I yelled come in.   It was Marko Vukcic. I had known he would be on our train, through a telephone conversation between him and Wolfe a week before, but the last time I had seen him was when he had dined with us at Wolfe's house early in March--a monthly occurrence. He was one of the only two men whom Wolfe called by their first names, apart from employees. He closed the door behind him and stood there, not fat but huge, like a lion upright on its hind legs, with no hat covering his dense tangle of hair.   Wolfe shouted at him, "Marko! Haven't you got a seat or a bed somewhere? Why the devil are you galloping around in the bowels of this monster?"   Vukcic showed magnificent white teeth in a grin. "Nero, you damn old hermit! I am not a turtle in aspic, like you. Anyhow, you are really on the train--what a triumph! I have found you--and also a colleague, in the next car back, whom I had not seen for five years. I have been talking with him, and suggested he should meet you. He would be glad to have you come to his compartment."   Wolfe compressed his lips. "That, I presume, is funny. I am not an acrobat. I shall not stand up until this thing is stopped and the engine unhooked."   "Then how--" Vukcic laughed, and glanced at the pile of luggage. "But you seem to be provided with equipment. I did not really expect you to move. So instead, I'll bring him to you. If I may. That really is what I came to ask."   Excerpted from Too Many Cooks by Rex Stout, Rex Stout All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.