The typewritten note certainly made the situation quite clear:
"We have got your Jimmy safe and sound. We haven't hurt him any and you can have him back all in one piece for $500,000 if you play it right and keep it strictly between you and us. We mean strictly. If you try any tricks you'll never see him again."
That note had been sent to Althea Vail, who was now sitting in the office of Nero Wolfe, asking him for help. Her husband, Jimmy Vail, had been kidnapped. She was willing to pay the half million dollar ransom...but she wanted Nero Wolfe to make sure Jimmy was returned alive and in one piece. And Wolfe, with the prospect of a very rich fee in front of him, agreed - even though it would mean some very fancy footwork to avoid getting the police involved.
And, of course, it all led to murder...and more than a little inconvenience for both Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin...in The Final Deduction , by Rex Stout. Originally published in 1961, The Final Deduction is the subject of this week's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
I suppose that a cynic might say that in The Final Deduction, Nero Wolfe was only in it for the money – although I’m not sure that isn’t true of most of his cases. Wolfe is lured into the case by the very large sum of money that Althea Vail was prepared to pay for the return of her husband. So when Jimmy Vail is released by his kidnappers and returns – alive – Wolfe is willing to agree to the victim’s plea that he say nothing about it for a couple of days. After all, the kidnapper had threatened Jimmy with death if he spoke out too soon. Only there are complications. For one thing, a couple of murders suddenly bring the police on the scene – police who know nothing about that kidnapping. And Wolfe and Goodwin are forced to flee the brownstone to avoid talking to the cops in order to keep their promise of silence. And, in the meantime, there’s also a lot of ransom money that has gone to someone. And Wolfe will be offered the chance to earn a significant portion of that money – if he can find it.
The Final Deduction is a relatively short mystery, and - perhaps as a result of that - it is quite tightly written. The kidnapping, its aftermath, and the murders in the book flow quickly and naturally. Fans of Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin and the rest of the regular recurring characters will find them in fine form here. I may be forgetting some other cases, but I don't believe Nero Wolfe handled very many kidnappings. He's in good form in The Final Deduction.