Monday, April 27, 2015

"The Silent Speaker" by Rex Stout

So what do you do when the murder victim would not want you to solve the crime? At least, not right away? Is there a case where withholding evidence is the right thing to do?

In the case of “The Silent Speaker” it causes someone their life, this attempt to do the right thing. And, Nero Wolfe being Nero Wolfe, he does not simply go about assembling the puzzle.

This is another case where Wolfe and Goodwin solve a crime in spectacular, stylish fashion, but not in the way anyone would normally do. It isn’t enough for Wolfe to expose a killer. His ethical standards are too large and too personal. So, in addition to exposing the wrongdoer, Wolfe allows the murder to have the unintended side effects that suit his sense of right and wrong.

In the little game where we pretend that Rex Stout was writing a metaphor of the church in the world, this raises the question: how sly should we be? Is there ever an instance where calling out wrongs in the world is self-defeating? Do we fight every battle—political, social, and artistic—in a black and white position of judgement as the standard of right? Or do we at times let the systems of the world destroy themselves?

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