cover image The Missing Chapter

The Missing Chapter

Robert Goldsborough. Bantam Books, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-07241-9

Life imitates art imitates life. In his seventh Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin caper, the writer responsible for continuing the noted series after the death of originator Rex Stout plots a case around the corpse of an author who has continued a mystery series after the original writer's demise. A publisher hires Wolfe and Goodwin to investigate the death, labeled a suicide, of Charles Childress, an ill-tempered author who had recently angered several people, including his agent, his editor and the possibly corrupt reviewer who had lambasted the latest Childress novel. Yet for all that, Childress also had a pretty fiancee, a loyal friend in a fellow author and the devotion of many fans. Goldsborough carefully draws Wolfe and company into the '90s (computers figure in the plot and hold records of Wolfe's beloved orchids), yet the corpulent sleuth still abandons himself to Fritz Brenner's high-fat meals. As always, Archie does the legwork, which in this instance takes him to rural Indiana, Childress's home state, to unearth secrets that Wolfe pieces together in an assured and effective conclusion. Goldsborough ( Fade to Black ) may not recruit new fans to the anachronistic and bulky Wolfe, but he's likely to satisfy the old Rex Stout faithful. (Dec.)