5 stars out of 5
How refreshing: A straightforward, private eye-full of action, entertaining book with no head games, no flashbacks and no chapters that switch character POVs so often that I get neck strain. Thank you, Mr. Miles, and thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for the opportunity to read it in exchange for an honest review.
Jack Salvo is the P.I. here, and he's got a philosophical mind behind his shoulder holster. I mean that literally; one night a week - except when his investigations force him to be elsewhere - he teaches a philosophy class at a Los Angeles community college. Apparently, he got the boot from college before earning a Ph.D., so he can't get a teaching job at the likes of UCLA - but he's taken that in stride. Maybe that's because, unlike most of the philosophy professors I've known in my years as both a student and a university administrator (in the interests of full disclosure, there were only two), Jack has a great sense of humor. He described one female character, for instance, as wearing "a long, dark-green maxi dress slit up to her thighs far enough to ensure adequate ventilation to her neck."
So what's not to love about a guy like that? Not much, in my book - and the plot is pretty darned interesting as well. Jack is hired as a professional bodyguard for three Russian ballerinas who are visiting the United States and staying with an uppity, richer-than-God L.A. neurosurgeon and his wife. While taking a break from practicing at a local rehearsal hall, one of the girls is kidnapped (in return for trying to save her, Jack gets butt-tasered). Understandably, that doesn't set well with the good doctor (nor, for that matter, with Jack). But then comes the unexpected; no ransom demand is forthcoming, and very soon the girl is returned unharmed.
And that, too, doesn't set well with Jack, who smells a rotten tyulka and decides to get to the bottom of things despite being fired from the bodyguard assignment. For help, he turns to his buddies, his computer and another of the ballerinas, to whom he's taken a bit of a liking. The trail to the culprits begins with dead bodies near the Hollywood Sign and ends in Mother Russia and the Church of Our Savior Built on Spilled Blood, a St. Petersburg landmark.
Along the way, Jack shows off a few MacGyver-like tricks, runs afoul of the law on two continents (and of some really bad guys) and lands smack dab in the middle of the Russian Mole-Rat's den. Will he make it back home in one piece? My lips are sealed, except to say that if he does, I hope he'll show up in another book.
Church of Spilled Blood by Jesse Miles (Amazon Digital Services LLC, August 2016); 218 pp.