163k 09/45 Terror Takes 7

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A young beauty’s terror takes the most bizarre shapes. A coonskin cap, an exotic collection of rare orchids, a flintlock rifle, and a disappearing butler combine to create the most puzzling mystery of Doc’s career!


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  1. Thomas Fortenberry

    Terror Takes 7 is another one of those off kind of Docs. The typical sinister plot of blackmail against a group of corporate magnates, apparently, is at the heart of the matter. Some oddities include the mailing of pieces of an exotic collection of artifacts to victims as a warning, which readers of the series will instantly recognize from other tales, such as an ancient coon skin cap and a flintlock rifle. These items must have been favorites of Dent as many times as they appear. Perhaps he had some family heirlooms out on the farm or something.

    A creepy coonskin cap is not the best story by any means, but their are some very nice moments. One involves Ham, in a very rare display, showing off his legal prowess and kicking some D.A. ass. Doc is framed for murder but he calls Ham in to try and help get him out of the mess and solve the crime. It isn’t appreciated by the law and a brash Assistant D. A. orders them expelled or arrested: Ham snorted. “Look, Ivans, we have special police commissions which entitle us to hang around here if we want to.” “Commissions?” Ivan’s tone implied disbelief. “Let me see them.” Ham and Doc produced the documents…. Assistant District Attorney Ivans looked at them. “These are cancelled.” He threw the documents on the floor. “For God’s sake!” Rage gave Ham’s face a shiny hard look. “Nobody but the Commissioner can cancel those. Now, you bloated little pipsqueak, get on the telephone and tell your boss we’re investigating this thing. See what he tells you.” Ivans retreated uneasily. Thompson shook his head soberly, said, “Ivans can make it tough. He’s an up and coming young man in the D.A.’s office.” “He’ll be down and crawling if he doesn’t watch out!” Ham was angry. When Ivans came back he wore the air of a young man who had found a mouse in his hash. “We’re going to take that commission business up with the Commissioner in damned short order.” Ham laughed in his face. (Bantam Omnibus 9, p 339)

    I love that scene, especially for its rarity. Ham doesn’t get to shine in a legal sense very often. But here, when Doc stands accused of murder, the first person he calls is Ham for his expertise. There are some nice shenanigans in these scenes, as even Monk tries to lie and cover for Doc in various ways, while the framing of Doc is tightened and made worse and worse. It is a nice jam, even though a variation on a “closed room” murder scenario. But Doc, as usual, solves it and then “magically” leaves the locked room scene of the crime with the Ass.(hole) D.A. waiting outside the door for him: Waiting, he wished he could be around to see Assistant District Attorney Ivans face when that officious young man began searching the orchid room. (p 345) Ah, sweet revenge, even for Doc.

    Of course, as you might note, the murder was in an orchid room of a mansion. Hmmm, anyone seen Nero Wolfe around lately?

    Thomas Fortenberry

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