Saturday, January 22, 2005

Jazz Canary

"Jazz Canary" by Les Roberts, Murder and All That Jazz, Robert J. Randisi, ed., Signet Books, $6.99, Mass Market Paperback.

Milan Jacovich returns. Though you wouldn't know it from the first five pages of the story.

Milan has always been a jazz fan. Some years before the time of this story he met a jazz singer named Kate O'Dwyer. He started out as a fan and became a friend, often going sailing with her on her sailboat, Jazz Canary. Their relationship was purely platonic. During this time, she divorced her controlling husband, Charlie, but kept him on as her manager. Eventually she fired him from that position, too. It took a little encouragement from Milan before he moved on.

Kate moved on to the big time leaving Cleveland for New York. Now she has come back on tour to her hometown. While she was gone, she had a daughter, now five years old. Milan finds out where she is staying and calls her up to congratulate her on her success. She asks him to come see her at the hotel.

Kate has a problem: Charlie is back trying to weasel his way into her life. She wants nothing to do with him and would like Milan to act as bodyguard while she is in town. Of course he agrees. Nothing much happens until the day of the first concert. During the technical rehearsal Kate tells Milan she won't need him until after the concert, so he goes back to his office.

When Milan meets Kate again in her dressing room after the concert who should be there with her but ex-husband, Charlie, seemingly back in the catbird seat. Kate has signed him on as her manager again and agreed to remarry him.

Milan knows something is wrong, and he's determined to find out what it is.

Even though I enjoyed this story, I had two problems with it. The first I mentioned above. We don't know for sure that this story features Milan Jacovich until the fifth page. That kind of thing is a danger with a series character. The author gets so comfortable with the character that he just expects the audience to know who he's talking about without naming names. I, myself, have been dinged on that point several times.

My second quibble involves the resolution of the story. After his interview with Kate and Charlie after the concert, Milan knows something is wrong. In a denouement interview with a cop, he explains how he knew, something he saw that was not revealed at the time to the reader. I think this clue should have been revealed at the time Milan noticed it. Since it wasn't I give Mr. Roberts one demerit for not playing fair.

In short, in spite of my quibbles, it's a very good story.