William F. Deeck

CHRISTOPHER BUSH – Dead Man’s Music. Howard Baker, UK, hardcover reprint, 1970. First Edition: Wm. Heinemann, UK, hc, 1931. US hardcover: Doubleday Doran/Crime Club, 1932.


   An odd request to Durangos, Limited, sends Ludovic Travers, newly appointed director, to Steyvenning, Sussex. Claude Rook is looking for a man of “implicitly honourable confidence” who knows china and music and is quick-witted.

   When Travers more or less satisfies Rook’s requirements, Rook gives him a musical manuscript with unclear instructions what to do with it. As might have been guessed, Rook turns up dead, maybe having been tortured and maybe having committed suicide. One of the several odd things about his death is that someone shaved him shortly after he died

   Who was Rook? Why did he give the musical manuscript to Travers? What did the manuscript mean, particularly since it is not the piece Rook played for Travers?

   Not one of Travers’ better cases, more a thriller than a detective novel. A library patron — I deplore this tendency but must give the lady or gentleman credit for perceptivity– has scribbled on the cover, “Not good.”

   Not bad, either, but certainly a surprisingly weak selection to reprint, considering all the first-class novels that Bush has produced.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring 1989.


Bibliographic Data: If my count is correct, Dead Man’s Music is the 5th of 63 mysteries in which Ludovic Travers was the sleuth of record.

   The first appeared in 1926, the last in 1968. Christopher Bush also wrote another dozen or so detective novels as by Michael Home in which Travers did not appear.

   It isn’t clear in Bill’s review, perhaps, but Travers himself was a licensed (and therefore private) investigator, so unless I’m wrong about this, it’s strange that he’s not included in Kevin Burton Smith’s list of PIs on his Thrilling Detective website.

   Three more of Bush’s mysteries are reviewed by Mike Grost on his Classic Crime and Detection website, where he suggests that alibis and stage trickery are often significant factors in his work.