When I read the description of this novel in Net Galley (I obtained a free copy there) the premise sounded interesting. I enjoy mystery, suspense and crime thrillers. For me, the best are a combination of a gripping story and unforgettable characters. With regards to the story, it could be a fascinating and well described setting, or it might take place at an interesting historical moment, or in a peculiar background… And the characters…Real human beings with quirks, conflicts, lives, and voices. A P.I. who gets a job checking a possible case of embezzlement in a huge corporation (that as you can imagine quickly become far more complicated than that) and who also teaches Philosophy sounded promising on both counts.
Apart from all that, Dead Drop (the meaning of the name is explained in the novel) has elements also of the spy thriller. Jack Salvo, the detective, is in quite a few ways, your typical P.I. The novel is written in the first person and therefore we don’t get much on the way of other people’s point of view as to how Jack comes across to others. He seems popular with the women (although in some cases it is unclear if that might not be due to the attempts of the female characters at getting inside information from him), he knows about everything, he is well conversant with L.A. (I’ve never been there but to my untrained eye, the details seemed convincing), he is self-assured…and he teaches Philosophy and seems to enjoy it. But other than that little detail about him (and a very late brief discussion about his life with one of the female characters who becomes his love interest, Lily) I didn’t get the sense that I learned very much about the character or that he was much more than a collection of all his characteristics (that were neither offensive not particularly endearing, other than his interest in his teaching).
The plot is well developed and combines research, intrigue, action and mystery. Nobody is who they seem to be, and the story takes Jack from the corporate world, through veterans of the French foreign legion (and Philosophy experts to boot), bit actresses, luxury car garages, good old fashioned surveillance, breaking and entering, Swiss bank accounts, murder and bluff and double bluff.
The style of writing is clean, direct, easy to read, and fast-paced and fits in with the story. In summary I enjoyed the book but thought it could gain by developing the main character a bit more. Some of his reactions towards the end of the novel and his love story seem a bit sudden and not completely in keeping with the persona developed throughout the rest. As this is the first of a series of novels it might well be that the background will come more into play in later novels and it might allow the character to grow and become more multidimensional.
A solid story, a good and interesting read, just a notch below the unmissable category.