Jail Coach by Hillary Bell Locke


Jail Coach by Hillary Bell Locke
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (250 pgs)
Rated 4 Stars
Review by Snapdragon

Jay Davidovich is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan because he joined the National Guard in the late ‘nineties so that the taxpayers could put him through college. Nine-eleven took him by surprise – “sort of like Bush,” as Jay puts it. His job at Trans/Oxana is to prevent losses that Trans/Oxana has insured against – especially losses that unpleasant people want to happen. After Hollywood pretty boy Kent Trowbridge plays late-night bumper-car in his Ferrari, which bought an eight-figure Trans/Oxana policy insuring performance of Trowbridge’s Major Performing Artist Contract. Jay quickly realizes that Trowbrigde is going to do some county time. Because there won’t be any director yelling “CUT!” when things get dicey on the inside, Jay figures that Trowbridge won’t be in shape to perform anything once he gets out unless Jay finds him a Jail Coach.

Enter Katrina Thompson whose past includes jail, the Marines, a daughter, and a hustler named Stan Chaladian. The first will help Jay, the second will impress him, the third will charm him, and the fourth with almost kill him – that’s life in the Loss Prevention business.

Jail Coach by Hillary Bell Locke is a complex and unpredictable tale that takes us to the bright lights of the celebrity world and then persists in poking into dark corners.

Told in the first person, our main character is (irritatingly) not well identified immediately. However, we eventually figure out that we have dropped into the life of Jay, an ‘asset loss prevention specialist;’ aka, what seems to be a really large, well-coordinated babysitter-slash-guard. He’s also got Robert Parker-style character ego (and commentary) but without the amusing self-knowledge of a Nero Wolf character.

Jay is taxed with getting a celebrity bad-boy through jail (and more or less, through life) and to fulfilling his movie contracts. He’s assisted in this by ex-jailbird and single mom, Katrina Thompson–and both of them, outrageous characters themselves, have less-than-savory life entanglements. “Unsavory” is my sense of the whole thing: Jail Coach is loaded with cleverly done celebrity quips and sneers; it seems that nasty and humor must go hand in hand. Celebrity dirt (both invented and historical) is salted throughout, helping identify the Hollywood set as sleazy. Lawyers, mostly sleazy, represent celebrities: Ditto. The cover makes you think ‘crime novel,’ but it isn’t really.

Jail Coach is so nicely written, it drags the reader forward, frequently unwilling. Characters are powerful, conversations snappy and amusing, and the storyline is incredibly unpredictable. Locke went somehow wrong on the spicing of this one –like a gourmet treat that somehow leaves a bit of a bad aftertaste; but it’s still well-written and original. I’m not going to say you absolutely must read, but if you start reading it, you’ll absolutely want to finish.

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