William F. Deeck

ROBERT AVERY – Murder on the Downbeat. Arcadia House, hardcover, 1943. Death House #3, digest-sized paperback, 1944.

   Clarinetist Steve Sisson is widely respected for his great jazz playing, but he has lots of enemies. Early one morning in Fat-Ankles’s joint during a jam session, one of those enemies shoots Sisson in the head with the working part of an ice pick.

   The girlfriend of jazz columnist Malachy Bliss is arrested for file murder, she having had the opportunity and several good reasons for doing away with Sisson. Bliss, who is an even bigger toper than Jonathan Latimcr’s Bill Crane, begins his own investigation among musicians and the underworld.

   After Avery has constructed a quite good, but perchance not accurate, simile — “as pure as a seminarian’s dream” — his inventiveness is exhausted. A typical Arcadia product: interesting background, poorly executed novel.

— Reprinted from MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring 1990, “Musical Mysteries.”

Bibliographic Notes:   Robert Avery wrote three other mysteries, but all for the lending-library market. This seems to be Malachy Bliss’s only appearance, but two feature a sleuth named Joe Kelly, described by Bill elsewhere as a writer and amateur detective:

A Murder a Day! Mystery House, 1940. [Joe Kelly]
The Corpse in Company K. Swift, 1942. [Joe Kelly]
Murder on the Downbeat. Arcadia, 1943.
A Fast Man with a Dollar. Arcadia, 1947.