Society bandleader/sleuth Peter Damon returns in an encore clinker.
It’s 1965, and the good news is a six-week gig at LA’s glam Coconut Grove. The bad news is that Damon is two chairs short of a full band. Under the gun to fill this double void, he hires versatile Buddy Bixby, a top trumpet man who’s also got pipes that would be assets to any band—if Buddy weren’t so frequently zonked out on drugs. Sure enough, it doesn’t take long for him to disappear. This time, though, the explanation isn’t heroin but homicide, grist for the ratiocinative mill of one Hercules Platt, whose steel-trap brain may invite comparisons with a certain Belgian near-namesake. When last seen (Blue Moon, 2002), Platt was the San Francisco PD’s only black Inspector. Now retired but still brilliant and multitalented, he’s playing alto sax in Damon’s band. It’s Platt who sees the connections among a venal film producer, an aging actress, a sleazy flack, a brace of bumbling blackmailers, and poor Buddy. When other murders follow, Platt is there to solve them. A good thing, since Damon is distracted by a new love: “Two souls suddenly in touch . . . kissing like there was no tomorrow.”
Apart from these streaks of purple, the prose is colorless and the plotting lame. Bandleader Duchin and mystery writer Wilson (Justice at Risk<\I>, 1999, etc.) have collaborated on a work about as punchy as a diatonic scale.