Sound of Revelry (1943) by Octavus Roy Cohen
Steve Harrison and Judy Morgan are a dancing duo. They work for a dance instruction studio--giving dancing lessons to the rich with two left feet or to those who just want to polish their social skills. They also do exhibition dancing at select parties...and hope that one day their connections will get them a well-paid position at nice supper club or night club or even a break on Broadway. One of Steve's clients asks for the couple to come to a party and teach her guests some Latin dances. Judy isn't particularly keen because she knows a certain Babs Willard will be there and she's sure that Babs is trying to corner the market on Steve. She should know better. Steve's in love with Judy, though he hasn't exactly come right out and said so. And he convinces her that the job is all that matters.
After their dancing obligation has been fulfilled, the sneak out onto the building-length balcony for a little quiet time. When Steve realizes that Babs is on the hunt for him and headed towards the balcony, he draws Judy into the shadows where they won't be seen. Babs misses them and is about to go back inside when a loud noise is heard from the penthouse across the way. Judy has already identified the place as belonging to one of her regular private lesson customers--a fiftyish man by the name of Jonathan Tate. Judy thinks it was just a car backfiring, but Steve is positive that it was a gunshot. Before any of the three on the balcony can react properly to the noise, a couple comes casually out the penthouse door. They notice Babs and ask, "Did we scare you?" The tale they tell is the "usual old story." Showing off a pistol that was thought to be unloaded. It wasn't. Gunshot. Everybody startled.
Apparently reassured, Babs goes in. After a few moments, Judy goes in. Babs comes back out, corners Steve and plants a big ol' kiss on him. Judy misunderstands, is a bit miffed, and leaves Steve at the party. Babs, being the nice helpful girl she is, offers Steve a ride home. They haven't gone far before a car pulls up beside them and the next thing Steve knows there's more gunshots, Babs is hit, and the car runs into a lamp post. He wakes up in the hospital with Lieutenant Max Gold waiting to hear his story. When it becomes apparent that Babs was killed because of what she saw on the balcony, Steve can't understand why Gold isn't more interested especially when Steve later sees the woman and tells the detective he can identify her. In fact, he can't understand much of what goes on after that because everyone is keeping him in the dark--even Judy. That's when he decides to do a little detecting of his own.
So, this was a delightful read. I have (including this one) six Cohen books on my shelves. And this is the first one I have tried. I didn't know what to expect (there is no blurb on the back or in the front cover) and the only clue was the cover photo indicating shenanigans at a party. Which is true...sortof. The character of Steve is great. Poor baffled Steve. He knows that bad things are happening, but he's not sure why. Judy inherits a nightclub and everything else from Mr. Tate and after that and after Gold enters the scene she starts acting weird. But insists she's not. Perfect strangers start pumping Steve for everything he knows about Tate and Judy and anything else. And the cops don't care. Steve starts playing a lone hand and finds a mysterious key, a large wad of cash, and a few more dead bodies. But in the end, his lone detective work turns up trumps and nails the bad guys for the cops. A lot action and a lot of fun.
Of course, the whole thing turns on the fact that the cops keep Steve in the dark...and there is my only quibble. Obviously, for things to work out the way they do, Steve has to play a lone hand. But--it makes no sense for the cops to take Judy into their confidence as much as they do (and they don't tell her everything) but not Steve. They rule the couple out of the suspect category, so why not tell both of them what they tell Judy? In real life, it's more likely that not telling Steve and him going off on his own would only throw a wrench into the police work--or tip off the bad guys in some way. You'd think the cops would want to keep random civilians from gumming up the works if possible.
But--that point aside, this was a good story. More adventure than mystery--we know most of the solution well before the end, But it is a lot of fun following Steve around and watching him figure things out...or stumble into them, as the case may be. ★★★★
First line: Judy is lovely when she's angry.
Last line: She did.
Deaths = five shot