Death of a Demon

"Death of a Demon"
Author Rex Stout
Country United States
Language English
Series Nero Wolfe
Genre(s) Detective fiction
Published in The Saturday Evening Post
Publication type Periodical
Publication date June 1961

"Death of a Demon" is a Nero Wolfe mystery novella by Rex Stout, first serialized in three issues of The Saturday Evening Post (June 10, 17 and 24, 1961). It first appeared in book form in the short-story collection Homicide Trinity, published by the Viking Press in 1962.

Plot summary

"Death of a Demon" was serialized in three issues of The Saturday Evening Post (June 10–24, 1961), illustrated by Austin Briggs

Lucy Hazen disappoints Archie when she puts on an act. She takes a gun from her purse, puts it on Wolfe's desk, and announces that she's not going to use it to shoot her husband. She had seemed straightforward enough when she phoned for an appointment, and also when she came to the door. But now she gets dramatic, and neither Wolfe nor Archie likes it.

However, Mrs. Hazen soon gets back on track. Her husband of two years, a public relations counselor named Barry Hazen, has turned out to be a controlling psychopath. She despises him. In recent weeks she has been plagued by thoughts of shooting him with the gun he keeps in a bedside table. To put a stop to the thoughts, and deter herself from following through on them, she has come to Wolfe to confess beforehand, and brought along her husband's gun for emphasis. So doing, she thinks, means that she would not be able to get away with killing him, and she will stop dreaming about it.

Having unburdened herself, she asks to see the orchids. Wolfe loves to show them off, so he accompanies her to the plant rooms for a tour. While they're gone, Archie tunes the radio to the midday news, and hears that the body of a man identified as Barry Hazen has been found in an alley, shot in the back and dead for several hours.

When Wolfe and Mrs. Hazen return from the plant rooms, Archie tells them what he has just learned. Mrs. Hazen's reaction is so profound – the blood leaves her face faster than Archie has ever seen – that Archie is convinced of her innocence. She wants to hire Wolfe to advise her, but first Wolfe needs to know more, and he has questions.

He learns that she last saw her husband the night before. They had a dinner party for four of Hazen's clients and Theodore Weed, who works for Hazen writing copy. After dinner, Hazen dismissed his wife, saying that they were going to discuss business. The Hazens used separate bedrooms, so that was the last she saw of her husband.

Wolfe won't as yet accept a job from Mrs. Hazen, and tells her to wait and see what the police turn up. She leaves, but Wolfe insists that she relinquish the gun that she brought. Archie takes it to the basement and fires a bullet into a mattress to get a sample.

Then Cramer arrives. After some preliminary hostilities, Wolfe gives Cramer the bullet that Archie shot using Mrs. Hazen's gun. He suggests that Cramer compare it with the bullet that killed Mr. Hazen. By now Cramer is puce in the face; he has no choice but to leave with the bullet and without either Wolfe or Archie.

Archie spends several nervous hours. He is waiting to hear from Cramer regarding the bullet. If it matches the one that killed Hazen, there are two problems: it will mean that Archie has tampered with evidence by shooting the gun as well as keeping it from Cramer, and it will implicate Mrs. Hazen in the murder. It turns out that Mrs. Hazen is already implicated enough that the police are holding her for questioning. Nathaniel Parker is sent to represent her, and returns with Mrs. Hazen's authorization to enter the Hazen house and locate a metal box that her husband once showed her. Its existence is consistent with Wolfe's, and Archie's, conjecture that Hazen was blackmailing his clients.

Archie goes to the house, and finds the Hazens' dinner guests there, searching for the box. Archie gets it, and takes them and the box to Wolfe. Wolfe puts the screws to them by offering to sell them the contents of the box for one million dollars. They have 24 hours to come up with the money, or the box goes to the police.[1]

When Cramer finally returns to the brownstone, it is with the news that the police have found a gun that, ballistics analysis shows, killed Hazen. And Cramer has a real bombshell: the gun was found in Hazen's abandoned car, and the Hazens' maid saw it in Hazen's bedroom the morning of the murder. So the gun that Lucy brought with her didn't kill Hazen, and Archie and Wolfe wonder where it came from.

Cast of characters

Publication history

"Death of a Demon"

Homicide Trinity

Contents include "Eeny Meeny Murder Mo", "Death of a Demon" and "Counterfeit for Murder".
In his limited-edition pamphlet, Collecting Mystery Fiction #10, Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe Part II, Otto Penzler describes the first edition of Homicide Trinity: "Blue cloth, front cover stamped in blind; spine printed with deep pink; rear cover blank. Issued in a mainly blue dust wrapper."[3]:14
In April 2006, Firsts: The Book Collector's Magazine estimated that the first edition of Homicide Trinity had a value of between $150 and $350. The estimate is for a copy in very good to fine condition in a like dustjacket.[4]
The far less valuable Viking book club edition may be distinguished from the first edition in three ways:
  • The dust jacket has "Book Club Edition" printed on the inside front flap, and the price is absent (first editions may be price clipped if they were given as gifts).
  • Book club editions are sometimes thinner and always taller (usually a quarter of an inch) than first editions.
  • Book club editions are bound in cardboard, and first editions are bound in cloth (or have at least a cloth spine).[5]:19–20


Nero Wolfe (CBC Radio)

"Death of a Demon" was adapted as the 12th episode of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's 13-part radio series Nero Wolfe (1982), starring Mavor Moore as Nero Wolfe, Don Francks as Archie Goodwin, and Cec Linder as Inspector Cramer. Written and directed by Toronto actor and producer Ron Hartmann,[6] the hour-long adaptation aired on CBC Stereo April 3, 1982.[7]


  1. This strategem is one that Wolfe employs elsewhere in the corpus; see, for example, "Before I Die".
  2. 1 2 Townsend, Guy M., Rex Stout: An Annotated Primary and Secondary Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1980. John McAleer, Judson Sapp and Arriean Schemer are associate editors of this definitive publication history. ISBN 0-8240-9479-4
  3. Penzler, Otto, Collecting Mystery Fiction #10, Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe Part II. New York: The Mysterious Bookshop, 2001. Limited edition of 250 copies.
  4. Smiley, Robin H., "Rex Stout: A Checklist of Primary First Editions." Firsts: The Book Collector's Magazine (Volume 16, Number 4), April 2006, p. 35
  5. Penzler, Otto, Collecting Mystery Fiction #9, Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe Part I. New York: The Mysterious Bookshop, 2001. Limited edition of 250 copies.
  6. MacNiven, Elina, "Nero Wolfe: Wolfe's verbal coups rendered on radio"; Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada), January 16, 1982.
  7. Hickerson, Jay, The Ultimate History of Network Radio Programming and Guide to All Circulating Shows, 1992, Box 4321, Hamden, CT 06514, p. 6; The Thrilling Detective, Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe

External links

Quotations related to Homicide Trinity at Wikiquote

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