From the Wikipedia entry on this novel: "Nero Wolfe is hired to force the FBI to stop wiretapping, tailing and otherwise harassing a woman who gave away 10,000 copies of a book that is critical of the Bureau and its director, J. Edgar Hoover." "The Doorbell Rang" generated controversy when it was published, due largely to its unflattering portrayal of the FBI, its director and agents.
Stout has poured so many eccentricities into him that he would be a mere caricature if it were not for Stouts skill at plotting and the unusual cases that Wolfe and Goodwin tackle. He is his assistant and sometimes cats paw, and he lives, rent-free in Wolfes house and dines at no charge on gourmet food cooked by Wolfes chef, Fritz. Goodwin has been with Wolfe so long that he knows all his idiosyncrasies and can play on them to move things along. She read a book, "The FBI Nobody Knows", and was so moved that she decided to purchase 10,000 copies and send them to prominent and influential people ... Now she is being harassed by the FBI and wants Wolfe's help putting and end to it. Soon Wolfe, Archie Goodwin, and Fritz Brenner find themselves living under siege. 4+ PS: I want to add that Stout has opinions on everything but particularly food and books. In almost every Nero Wolfe you will be treated to both a series of gourmet meals and to one or more books that Wolfe is currently reading a bonus of delights.
There was a (fictional) book covering the agency's abuse of power which came under the radar of the majority of public - just as it is usually the case. She did two things to convince the detective to take the case: the retainer check was for $100,000 (please recall the time and dollar's buying power when this took place) and her mentioning of Wolfe's being the only man on Earth who could possibly do it.
When the paranoid anti-Communist era of the late 1940s and 1950s began, Stout ignored a subpoena from the House Un-American Activities Committee at the height of the McCarthy era witch-hunts. Though active in causes on the left, Stout was rabidly anti-communist and the irony of his subpoena is that he probably would have supported McCarthy's goal of finding "Commies" in the US Government, if it had actually been about that. In other books he showed Archie as pretty darn anti-communist, he had Wolfe say some very unflattering things about Germans and he let his hawkish stance on the War in Vietnam show. But this was the first time that he used the entire premise of a book to go after a political enemy, in this case, The FBI and J. In THE DOORBELL RANG, Nero Wolfe is hired to force the FBI to stop wiretapping, tailing and otherwise harassing a woman who gave away 10,000 copies of a book that is critical of the Bureau and its director, J.
The book is told in the first person by Archie Goodwin, who is the right-hand man of the main character, Nero Wolfe, a brilliant, rather rotund, eccentric gourmand who raises orchids, certainly one of the most memorable private investigators in crime fiction, ranking with other notables such as Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.
Now she is being harassed by the FBI and wants Wolfe's help putting and end to it. Of course this being a Nero Wolfe story there is a murder. Bugging your home, putting a tap on your phone, and tailing you everywhere is one thing. There is a quite a bit of humor in this story as Wolfe and Archie take on the Hoover's FBI and puts them in their place. Nero Wolfe stories are always a fun and enjoyable read.
Nero Wolfe books are always smooth, competent, and fun: feet up and relax murder mysteries.
While I have nothing against the F.B.I, and feel that the country would quite possibly go to hell in a handbasket without them, they, like any other institution, need their checks and balances. Both Fritz and Wolfe try to feed him, but Archie wants to savor his bad mood. This is a far cry from the Archie of earlier books, who once commented that his main interest in the food was the fact that it was bound for his belly. Cramer, having learned of Wolfe's case by some mysterious process, offers them the wedge they need: a murder case wherein it appears that members of the F.B.I. itself are the guilty parties. Wolfe actually leaves the murder largely up to Archie; he's concentrating on putting together a sting operation on the F.B.I. Archie, in fact, solves the murder by himself, then puts the matter on hold until their main purpose is accomplished. I swear at the end of the movie when they were going over the itemized account list, I could hear Wolfe muttering about "toys for Hewitt's cat".
I have hundreds of old time radio programs of this type and I've started to collect classics in book form as I find them. One of my favorites are the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout. The final line of the book is "The doorbell rang." and by the time that line is delivered you are completely in awe of Wolfes final solution to the mysteries presented and want to just bask in the emotional joy of his answers while a would-be visitor is left on the porch ringing the bell.
While I knew The FBI Nobody Knows featured prominently in The Doorbell Rang, I had assumed it was a fake book, created by Stout for the purposes of his story. One of the greatest strengths of the Nero Wolfe series is that Stout wrote stories that can stand alone.