Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Julius Katz", by Dave Zeltserman

Available for download from

Julius Katz is not Nero Wolfe.

Sure, there are similarities. The name, to begin with. The love of fine food. The indolence that means he only works when he has to. And an assistant named Archie, the narrator of the story, who women find utterly charming.

But Katz does not weigh an eighth of a ton; in fact, he keeps himself in excellent shape. He's witty, charming, and irresistible to women. He drinks wine, not beer. He lives in a Boston townhouse, not a New York brownstone, and he ventures out of it frequently. And Archie? He's an artificial intelligence housed in Katz's tie clip.

Likewise, "Julius Katz" is not a Nero Wolfe story, though it obviously draws inspiration from Wolfe, and shares some of the same rhythms. Katz is obliged to take a case from Norma Brewer, a woman in late middle age, and her sister Helen. Their mother is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and their brother Lawrence - her legal guardian - refuses to move her to a nursing home. Norma is afraid that through Lawrence's negligence some harm will come to her mother, especially since Lawrence himself stands to inherit a tidy sum.

So Katz visits their mother, and spends the next few days assiduously avoiding work, despite Archie's protestations. Then they get word of a new development: murder.

"Julius Katz" suffers somewhat from being an "origin" story. We spend almost as much time getting to know Katz as he does investigating the case. And the pacing can best be described as... langourous? Sedate? Fans of Nero Wolfe (as I am) will get the most enjoyment from this story, but anyone who enjoys an old-fashioned tale of pure detection will get their money's worth.

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