Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Listening Room by Robert J. Randisi

"The Listening Room" by Robert J. Randisi, Murder and All That Jazz Edited by Robert J. Randisi, Signet Books, $6.99, Mass Market Paperback.

In this story Mr. Randisi's retired New York cop, Truxton Lewis, makes his third appearance. Tru has moved to the wilds of Missouri, a small town of 1,380 people about 75 miles from St. Louis. An old friend of his from the Job, Billy Danvers, has opened a jazz club in St. Louis. He calls Tru and asks him to come to the club to talk about some problems he's having.

Tru arrives at the club and is told that his friend will see him after the 9:00 pm set. The combo playing consists of a female singer backed by a trio of piano, drums and bass. Tru's waitress comes and tells him that Mr. Danvers had told her to send him back to the office when they start playing the last number in the set. She points him in the direction of the office and leaves. When Tru opens the office door he finds his old friend dead with a letter opener in his chest.

Tru manages to contain all the club's patrons and calls the police. When the detectives arrive, the lead detective allows Tru to help out with the questioning. Of course Tru has noticed things that the detectives haven't. The murderer is still there, and he/she is unmasked before the end of the evening.

While the time period of the story isn't specified (my one quibble), I suspect that it is in the 'seventies or maybe a little earlier. The reason for this is some, I guess you could call it, disrespect of the crime scene. And there is no mention of DNA regarding evidence found at the scene. These are omissions that no contemporary police department would make, especially one in a city as large as St. Louis.

Mr. Randisi plays fair. The clues are all there in plain view. The questioning leads logically and clearly to the culprit. Once the suspects are narrowed down there is some fast and furious, back and forth, questioning that reminded me of some of the better cop shows on TV. One of the St. Louis detectives even indulges in a little trickery to trap the murderer. Like the clues this trickery is fully visible to the reader -- if he's sharp enough.

"The Listening Room" is a straightforward cop story done by a master of the form.

In short, an engaging read.