Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Shades of Blue by Bill Moody

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Shades of Blue by Bill Moody. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Shades of Blue by Bill MoodyBuy from

Shades of Blue by
An Evan Horne Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-485-6 (1590584856)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-485-9 (9781590584859)
Publication Date: February 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): After several months of successful work in London and Amsterdam with American expatriate Fletcher Paige, Evan Horne returns to the states and settles in the Bay Area. There he reunites with his girlfriend, FBI agent, Andie Lawrence. And Evan quickly makes inroads into the Bay Area jazz scene. Life is good until a phone call from a Los Angeles attorney turns his life upside down.

Evan’s old friend and former mentor, pianist Calvin Hughes, has died, and named Evan as his sole beneficiary. Evan is shocked to learn that Hughes has left him his small Hollywood house, money, and all his possessions. But when Evan begins to play through some hand-written sheet music, he recognizes one as a song from the landmark Miles Davis recording Birth of the Cool, and another from Kind of Blue, arguably one of the most important recordings in modern jazz. Was Calvin Hughes the uncredited composer of one or both of these tunes, or was it simply Hughes’s transcriptions from the recordings?

In addition, Evans finds a cryptic note, and a photo taken almost 40 years earlier—a young Cal with his hand on a baby carriage. Both are taped to the bottom of a dresser drawer. A friend of Cal’s Lisa Gaines will continue to take care of Milton and rent from Evan. Evan is soon on a whirl-wind journey across the country to find answers from his family and to confront his mother. What was her relationship with Calvin Hughes? And just how did Jazz come into the equation?

Review: After an absence of nearly 6 years, Bill Moody returns with Shades of Blue, the 6th book in his series featuring jazz musician Evan Horne. Not a murder mystery per se, but an intriguing investigation into the past.

Shortly after returning to San Francisco from a jazz engagement in Europe, Even receives a phone call from a lawyer informing him that his former piano teacher, mentor, and close friend Calvin Hughes has died. In the late 40s and early 50s Calvin was the pianist in some very popular jazz bands and taught Evan to love the music as much as he did. To Evan's surprise, Calvin had named him the sole beneficiary of his estate which consisted of a small house in Hollywood, some money, and all his other possessions. While taking an inventory of what was there, Evan discovers handwritten sheet music of songs made popular by the renowned Miles Davis Trio. Calvin had been their pianist. Though Miles was credited as the author, Evan cannot help but wonder if Calvin was the true composer. Evan also finds, taped to the bottom of a drawer, a cryptic note and a picture of Calvin with a baby in a carriage. Calvin had never married and neither Evan nor others than knew Calvin could ever remember him mentioning having a child. Another mystery surfaces when an unknown woman is named as the beneficiary of Calvin's life insurance. Clearly Calvin had secrets that he kept well hidden even from his closest friends. As Evan crosses the country to understand more about his late friend's life, he ultimately hears a shocking story from an unexpected source: his mother.

Shades of Blue is one of those atmospheric novels that relies more on how the plot unfolds and the manner in which it is told is than on the story itself. One knows that something is going to happen, but it isn't clear what it is, and how or when it will occur. From that perspective, this is a suspenseful novel. The characters are all well-rounded and the jazz setting lends a noir-ish feel to the whole book. An interesting story to be sure, yet in the end it all seems a bit incomplete as if there could have been, or should have been, something more.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of Shades of Blue and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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