Claudius Lyon & Arnie Woodbine

Created by Loren D. Estleman

“Are you familiar with the work of Rex Stout?”

A great series of short stories by P.I. master Estleman, creator of Amos Walker, Valentino et al, is both homage and gentle parody of Rex Stout’s beloved Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.

ARNIE WOODBINE is an ex-con who boasts that he’s a “good confidence man in the second class and a first class forger,” and one day he spots a want ad in The Habitual Handicapper:

“Nimble-witted man needed for multitudionous duties. Salary commeasurate with with skill. Room and board included. Apply at 700 Avenue J. Flatbush.”

Fresh out of the hoosgow, he decides to go for it, and encounters the very rotund but dapper CLAUDIUS WOODBINE, whom Arnie tags as the “best-tailored beach ball” he’d ever met. Claudius is impressed with Arnie’s candor and feels that Arnie has the sort of skills that would be just perfect for his agency.

What sort of agency, Arnie asks.

“Why, a detective agency, of course,” is the reply.

It turns out Claudius is more than a little obsessed with Wolfe, and has plans to set up a copy-cat agency, modelled exactly like that of his idol, billing himself as “the world’s greatest amateur detective,” figuring he’ll be safe from legal action from Wolfe–who of course really exists–as long as he doesn’t (officially) charge for his work.

“The phrase ‘the world’s greatest detective’ would violate the truth-in-advertising laws,” he explains to Arnie. After all, Nero Wolfe is still practising and demonstrably the best in his profession.”

Of course.

The concept’s a hoot, and nobody, but nobody, can crack wise like an Estleman character. 

The best-tailored beach ball, indeed.


  • “Who’s Afraid of Nero Wolfe?” (June 2008, EQMM)
  • “The Boy Who Cried Wolfe” (September/October 2008, EQMM)
  • “Wolfe at the Door” (February 2009, EQMM)
  • “A Wolfe in Chic Clothing” (September/October 2011, EQMM)
  • “Wolfe on the Roof” (2013, Kwik Krimes)Buy this book
  • “Wolfe and Warp” (January 2016, EQMM)



Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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