A Prize for Princes by Rex Stout
In this novel of intrigue and suspense, the masterful Rex Stout follows the fortunes of Aline Solini, whose angelic face hides a demon's soul. It is the face that captivates Richard Stetton, a wealthy young American, when he rescues Aline from a Balkan convent about to be sacked by marauding Turks. Stetton also enables Aline to escape Vasili Petrovich, the husband she tried to poison, and introduces her into society's highest circles. There Aline proves her talents for deceit and chicanery among men of power to be no less formidable -- or deadly -- than her sensuality.
More like ersatz Stout --, June 20, 2003
from cleveland hts ohio
Yes, indeed, there are times when reading an early, possibly previously unknown or unpublished work by a favorite established author can be a joyous reading experience. Not so in this particular case, however. This one should have died aborning. To be sure, anything written by Rex Stout cannot be other than gracefully written, while exhibiting a thorough knowledge of the setting and any other details necessary to the plot. This IS well-written, and as far as I can tell, an accurate recreation of the period of 1914, just before the outbreak of World War I, when there were still myriad little princedoms scattered about Europe, each with their own Prince. Or Duke, perhaps, although here we have a prince. We have also a Mata Hari type who quite defies description! And a TSTL male lead character. (That means 'too stupid to live' for the uninitiated.) There is an ingenue, and a quite nice young diplomat and a villain who isn't really, plus the aforementioned prince. Richard Stetton, a wealthy young American afflicted with wanderlust happens on a riot in Fasilica, wherever that is in middle Europe, somewhere, more near the Orient and Asia than the continental areas with which we're more familiar, such as France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and so forth. When he sees the out-of-control troops attack a convent, he rushes to assist anyone he can find. Thus he meets up with a devastatingly beautiful blonde, Aline Solini and her younger, orphaned friend, Vivi Janvour. Better he had run in the opposite direction several hours earlier. But he didn't, and for the next 300+ pages, the reader is treated to the impossible, the improbable, and the unbelievable. Frankly, I cannot believe that Rex Stout approved this venture--having the 25 chapters put into book form, rather than being spread out over several months in the telling. Perhaps if one were to read it, one chapter per week, it would be more palatable and less laughable. It won't tarnish Stout's brilliant reputation, except to those who've never read the Nero Wolfe books. What a pity if it should discourage anyone from reading those books or the short stories or novellas about Nero and Archie and their cohorts, which are entirely splendid. This effort, however, reeks of an attempt by someone to generate income using the defenseless author who died several years ago, and is no longer able to defend himself from such nefarious schemes.