Black Orchids (A Nero Wolfe Mystery Book 9) – Rex Stout originally published in 1942 by Farrar & Rinehart. It Contains the novellas “Black Orchids” and “Cordially Invited to Meet Death“. I read the Kindle Edition from Random House Publishing.
This is two novella length stories. The first one tells the story of how Wolfe became the one who owns the black orchids. In a case where a murder is committed in plain sight at a flower show exhibit, Wolfe will find the killer. Though evidence points to a millionaire orchid fancier Mr. Hewitt, who has been exhibiting his hybridized black orchids, Wolfe sees something else at work here. He will expose the actual murderer. Wolfe’s fee for this serve, why, the rare black orchids themselves. Though Hewitt considers it blackmail, he agrees to this deal. As Wolfe investigates, it seems that the dealings of rival planters and their proxies are behind the murder. In typical Wolfe fashion all the principles in this story are collected at the mansion for the ‘big reveal’. The story reaches its climax in Wolfe’s own orchid fumigation room where the guilty party may just poison Wolfe and his guests.
The second story revolves around a poison pen campaign against a prominent party planner. In typical Wolfe fashion, a small group of suspects is collected, including the planner’s secretary, assistant, niece, nieces fiancée, and a discrete rogue or two. Just as Wolfe sees the impossibility of the initial investigation, the client turns up dead. Now he has a case he’s much more motivated to solve… and he needs to move quickly, before the next body falls!
According to the obit in the Times the next morning, the funeral service was to be Wednesday afternoon, at the Belford Memorial Chapel on 73rd Street, and of course there would be a big crowd, even in August, for Bess Huddleston’s last party. Cordially invited to meet death. I decided to go. Not merely, if I know myself, for curiosity or another look at Janet. It is not my custom to frequent memorial chapels to look at girls even if they’re good dancers. Call it a hunch. Not that I saw anything criminal, only something incredible. I filed past the casket with the throng because from a distance I had seen it and couldn’t believe it. But when I got close there it was. Eight black orchids that could have come from nowhere else in the world, and a card with his initials the way he scribbled them, “N.W.”