The Last Coincidence by Robert Goldsborough
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Roughly a decade after Rex Stout's death ended the Nero Wolfe series of books, Robert Goldsborough was hired to continue the series. There are two distinct eras of Goldsborough's books. Early Goldsborough runs from 1986 (Murder in E Minor) to 1994 (The Missing Chapter). Late Goldsborough begins in 2012 (Archie Meets Nero Wolfe) and continues to (as of this review) 2018 (The Battered Badge).
I generally find the early Goldsborough books to be superior, as he does a much better job of capturing Stout's tone. The Last Coincidence, unfortunately, does not quite live up to the standard of the other early Goldsborough books. Three things are just a little off.
First, while Wolfe certainly sounds like Wolfe, Archie's voice is not quite "on" in this book. The tone is not as off in the late Goldsborough books, but there's a certain flippancy that Archie carries with him that seems forced here. Perhaps it's the subject matter (date rape), or trying to shoehorn Lily Rowan into the story. (Goldsborough is far more fascinated with LR than Stout ever was.)
Second, the plot is pure contrivance. Wolfe pulls the solution out of thinner air than when he pinned his solution on a diphthong (A Right to Die, 1964). Stout plotted some whoppers, but this one truly stretches credulity.
Third, there is the subject matter issue. Goldsborough dances around the date rape subject, never quite plumbing the horror of it and never quite raising the victim to true sympathy. He doesn't downplay it so much as he doesn't play it up quite enough. Since it is the motivating force for murder, it should get more word space.
Overall, a serviceable, but not particularly good, entry into the Nero Wolfe canon.
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