"I want you to get a snake out of my house. Out of my family." Thus spoke millionaire Otis Jarrell, offering Nero Wolfe ten thousand dollars in cash as a retainer. If it hadn't just happened that Jarrell called on Wolfe during a time when relations between the great detective and his faithful assistant Archie Goodwin were less cordial than usual, Archie, victim of Wolfe's spite, would not have found himself posing as secretary to Jarrell. But it did so happen, and as a result Archie became part of the Jarrell menage in the twenty-room duplex penthouse on Fifth Avenue. Here he met the "snake" - Jarrell's handsome, charming daughter-in-law - as well as an assortment of other ladies and gentlemen, including a pretty young girl who danced well and wrote poetry, a lazy brother-in-law who cheerfully lost other people's money on horses, and an almost too efficient stenographer named Nora. When Archie found Jarrell's former secretary face down on the floor, with a .38-bullet hole in back of his head, he knew indeed that there was a snake somewhere. The story of how he and Nero Wolfe identified and caught that reptile is herewith set down in Archie's own lively words.
The mildly entertaining story of Otis Jarrell, who hires Archie as a live-in secretary during a moment of coolness between Archie and Wolfe.
"The idea was to show me that he was actually in the best of humor, nothing wrong with him at all, that if his manner with me was somewhat reserved it was only because I had been very difficult, and it was a pleasure, by contrast, to make contact with a fellow being who would appreciate amenities." (p.3)