THE BATTERED BADGE
A Nero Wolfe Mystery
By Robert Goldsborough
What we love about Robert Goldsborough new Nero Wolfe stories is his willingness to break the mold established by Wolfe’s creator, the late Rex Stout. Such a statement will certainly anger the purist out there, but we stand by it completely. No writer ever wants to bore his readers and a repetitive plot structure will guarantee that malaise eventually. Meaning quite simply, had Stout lived longer and continued to write new stories about his rotund sleuth, we can easily imagine him developing many of the same new elements Goldsborough has delighted us with over the past few years.
With “The Battered Badge,” Goldsborough centers his plot around one of the series most amiable supporting figures in Inspector Lionel Cramer, Wolfe’s opposite number on the NYPD. So many times Wolfe has frustrated the veteran copper in his pursuit of his duty, only in the end to hand him the killers and let the police take all the credit. It was easy for any astute reader to see both men respected each other but neither would ever admit it.
When a popular anti-crime personality is gun downed gangland style, criticism is directed at the police immediately and the new commissioner, bowing to political pressure, has Cramer relieved of his duties. The Homicide Division replacing him is an egotistical incompetent. This is extremely bothersome to both Wolfe and Archie and invariably they are caught up in the case even before they have an actual client. Goldsborough is clever enough to make us wait for the eventual meeting between Cramer and Wolfe. The last thing in the world Wolfe wants is for Cramer to know he is manipulating events to have the dedicated lawman reinstated.
Meanwhile Archie and fellow P.I. Saul Panzer continue to interview likely suspects all of which leads to a climatic gathering in police headquarters. Not the brownstone. And that is all we’ll reveal here, daring not to spoil what was one of the most enjoyable finales this series has ever delivered. Thank you, Mr. Goldsborough, for keeping these great characters fresh and exciting. Mr. Stout would have approved.