Jazz pianist/sleuth Evan Horne (Bird Lives!, 1999, etc.) is living these days in a minor key. After helping to snag a vicious serial killer, he’s suffering, an FBI shrink tells him, from posttraumatic stress syndrome—plus the busted-up blues from the abrupt quietus to a long-term love affair. But the beat picks up in Amsterdam, where he’s fled to get away from it all. Evan’s playing a gig with that great expatriate tenor sax-man Fletcher Paige, making good music, drawing ego-salving crowds, and trying not to be too uncomfortable about his vanished friend, jazz historian Ace Buffington. Ace was last seen alive in Amsterdam’s Prins Hendrik Hotel, made famous, or infamous, 13 years earlier when Chet Baker was last seen alive there too. It was from the window of Room C-20 that the legendary trumpeter jumped, fell, or was pushed—the consensus rather favoring jumped or fell since the 58-year-old virtuoso was also a noted substance abuser. On the other hand, pushed makes a better story, and Ace had been after Evan to join him in unraveling what might be a sensational mystery. Both tempted and hesitant, Evan had been waffling. But now that Ace’s disappearance means two mysteries for the price of one, his resistance collapses. Con brio, the game’s afoot.
Insider talk provides rich rewards for jazz buffs, though mystery fans might feel short-changed.