What is it about Nero Wolfe, the food-loving and orchid-fancying misogynist, that draws the most attractive, wealthy, and desperate females to his office? Could it possibly be his leg-man, Archie Goodwin? Archie, at least, is in for another reward in this latest of Nero's cases, and reader who have followed Archie's hairbreadth escapes from entrapment in the past will be left wondering at the end of this one. But not about who is guilty of the murders that follow Lucy Valdon's first visit to West 35th Street. It's a matter of maternity that brings her, and the trail that is blazed by a few handmade horsehair buttons has the rare effect of leading Nero out of his habitat and forcing him to set up shop outside.
Any one of whom could have been the mother of the four-month-old infant who had been abandoned on the beautiful widow's doorstep.
The big question was: WHICH ONE? The only person who knew for sure was dead.
And before Nero Wolfe and Archie could find the solution to the maddening mystery, two other violent deaths clouded the horizon.
"Maintaining integrity as a private detective is difficult; to preserve it for the hundred thousand words of a book would be impossible for me, as it has been for so many others. Nothing corrupts a man so deeply as writing a book; the myriad temptations are overwhelming." (p. 59)
"[Wolfe] 'How old are you?'
"That was for my benefit. He had a triple conviction: that a) his animus toward women made it impossible for him to judge any single specimen; that b) I needed only an hour with any woman alive to tag her; and that c) he could help out by asking some blunt impertinent question, his favorite one being 'how old are you'. It's hopeless to try to set him right.
At that, the way Lucy Valdon took it was a clue. She smiled and said, 'Old enough, plenty old enough. I'm twenty-six. Old enough to know when I need help and here I am. It's about... it's extremely confidential.' She glanced at me."
At one point, Wolfe is so frustrated that he hurls his jacket at Archie. The scenes of Wolfe and Archie on the lam from the police are priceless.