Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe in Order

With more than 70 cases under his belt, Nero Wolfe and his partner Archie Goodwin tackle crime with sharp wit and keen intellect. Let’s dive into their adventures, where every case is a thrilling puzzle waiting to be solved.

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Reading Nero Wolfe Books in Order

Nero Wolfe was created by Rex Stout. Since 1986, journalist Robert Goldsborough has written several Nero Wolfe mysteries with the approval of the estate of Rex Stout.

Nero Wolfe Corpus

Fer-De-Lance (1934) aka Meet Nero Wolfe
The League of Frightened Men (1935)
The Rubber Band (1936) aka To Kill Again
The Red Box (1937) aka Case of the Red Box
Too Many Cooks (1938)
Some Buried Caesar (1939) aka The Red Bull
Over My Dead Body (1939)
Where There’s a Will (1940)
Black Orchids (1942)
Not Quite Dead Enough (1944)
The Silent Speaker (1946)
Too Many Women (1947)
And Be a Villain (1948) aka More Deaths Than One
Trouble in Triplicate (1949)
The Second Confession (1949)
Three Doors to Death (1950) aka Door to Death
In the Best Families (1950) aka Even in the Best Families
Curtains for Three (1950)
Murder By the Book (1951)
Triple Jeopardy (1952)
Prisoner’s Base (1952) aka Out She Goes
The Golden Spiders (1953)
Three Men Out (1954)
The Black Mountain (1954)
Before Midnight (1955)
Three Witnesses (1956)
Might As Well Be Dead (1956)
Three for the Chair (1957)
If Death Ever Slept (1957)
And Four to Go (1958) aka Crime And Again
Champagne for One (1958)
Plot It Yourself (1959) aka Murder in Style
Three At Wolfe’s Door (1960)
Too Many Clients (1960)
The Final Deduction (1961)
Homicide Trinity (1962)
Gambit (1962)
The Mother Hunt (1963)
Trio for Blunt Instruments (1964)
A Right to Die (1964)
The Doorbell Rang (1965)
Death of a Doxy (1966)
The Father Hunt (1968)
Death of a Dude (1969)
Please Pass the Guilt (1973)

While Death Times Three, a short story collection, was published posthumously, the three stories were all written before the last book, A Family Affair. As this one works perfectly as a conclusion to the series, we invite you to read it last.

Death Times Three (1985)
A Family Affair (1975)

Fer-de-Lance, the first Nero Wolfe Mystery

Nero Wolfe Books written by Robert Goldsborough

Following Rex Stout’s death, Robert Goldsborough became the official writer for Nero Wolfe. He published seven novels between 1986 and 1993, before taking a 19-year break.

Murder in E Minor (1986)
Death on Deadline (1987)
Bloodied Ivy (1988)
Last Coincidence (1989)
Fade to Black (1990)
Silver Spire (1992)
The Missing Chapter (1993)

Goldsborough came back to Nero Wolfe in 2012 with a prequel story and continues to write new stories with the detective, though those books are not as well perceived as the seven first ones. Some of the last ones are even considered to be simply bad. You’ll be the judge if you choose to read them!

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe (2012, prequel story set before Stout’s books)
Murder in the Ball Park (2014)
Archie in the Crosshairs (2015)
Stop the Presses! (2016)
Murder, Stage Left (2017)
The Battered Badge (2018)
Death of an Art Collector (2019)
Archie Goes Home (2020)
Trouble at the Brownstone (2021)
The Missing Heiress (2023)

Reading Nero Wolfe: Do I have to read the books in order?

In general, you can read the Nero Wolfe stories in any order you want. Most of the Nero Wolfe mysteries are atemporal. You’ll find occasional allusions to previous cases, but nothing spoilery.

There is only one exception with what is called the Arnold Zeck trilogy. The crime boss appears in three novels that are meant to be read in the following order: And Be A Villain, The Second Confession, and In the Best Families.

The Story of the Nero Wolfe Series

As Neil Nyren wrote on Crime Reads: “Stout did something unique: he married the British Golden Age, puzzle-solving school of mystery fiction with the street-smart, hardboiled, thoroughly American detective novels of Chandler and Hammett to come up with a seamless blend of thought and action, narrated in a prose that was unfailingly literate, witty, and engaging”.

But who is Nero Wolfe? The man can be considered a sort of mystery, as he likes to keep his past murky. There have been several research made about his parentage and some have suggested that he is the son of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler – first theorized by John D. Clark in 1956, and also suggested in the Auguste Lupa Mystery Series written by John Lescroart.

Whoever the parent of Nero Wolfe is – being Holmes or Arsene Lupin -, the man is still a brilliant overweight and eccentric detective, who despises leaving his home but loves reading, taking care of his orchids, and a great meal prepared by his personal chef, Fritz Brenner.

The gourmet detective has his own Watson and is assisted in his work by the young Archie Goodwin, officially his secretary and chauffeur.

Rex Stout, the author of Nero Wolfe

Rex Todhunter Stout (1886–1975) was an American author best known for his mystery fiction, particularly the classic Nero Wolfe books. Before World War I, Stout began writing in a variety of genres, including romance and adventure. In the 1930s, Stout began writing detective fiction, and after 1940, he produced practically only Nero Wolfe novels.

Stout also introduced Theodolinda “Dol” Bonner, one of the earliest professional female private detectives. She’s the leading character in The Hand in the Glove (1937), though this is the only book where she features as the protagonist. She later became a recurring character in the Nero Wolfe series when Stout needed a female detective.

In addition to his fiction writing, Stout was involved in early initiatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and co-founded the Vanguard Press. During World War II, Stout led the Writers’ War Board and gained fame through radio broadcasts. He later advocated for world federalism and served as president of the Authors Guild, championing reforms in copyright laws.

Rex Stout died of pneumonia on October 27, 1975, at the age of 88.

How many Nero Wolfe books are there?

Between 1934 and 1975, Nero Wolfe appeared in 33 novels and 41 novellas and short stories written by writer Rex Stout.

We can also add to this list 17 new Nero Wolfe stories (so far) written by Robert Goldsborough.

Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin in A Nero Wolfe Mystery.

The Nero Wolfe Adaptations

Nero Wolfe has been portrayed on radio, in film, and on television by many actors since the first adaptation, the movie Meet Nero Wolfe (1936) starring Edward Arnold as Wolfe, and Lionel Stander as Archie.

The next year, another Nero Wolfe movie was made, The League of Frightened Men (1937), starring Walter Connolly as Wolfe and Stander returning as Archie Goodwin.

After these two movies, Rex Stout never again sold the film rights to his Nero Wolfe novels.

The character has been somewhat more fortunate on radio, where his adventures have been adapted several times. Sidney Greenstreet was the most famous actor to play the detective on the radio, but not the only one. J. B. Williams, Francis X. Bushman, and Mavor Moore all lent their voices to the character.

Without a doubt, television has seen the most versions of Nero Wolfe, spanning different countries. Two television series have been produced in the United States, including A Nero Wolfe Mystery, which aired on A&E Television for two seasons, starring Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin.

Italy has also produced two series, while Germany opted for an adaptation in a 5-episode miniseries of Too Many Cooks. Additionally, Russia was producing its own Nero Wolfe series at the same time as the A&E production.

For more mysteries after Nero Wolfe, check out Robert Parker’s Spencer series or the Ellery Queen Detective Series.

For more information about Nero Wolfe and his creator, we invite you to consult The Wolfe Pack, the official Nero Wolfe Literary Society.