Thomas Theron, up for tenure at Wesley College (read Harvard), is ""the only Wesley professor who subscribes to Pro Wrestler."" Furthermore, when not stumbling through lectures on Hawthorne, he hangs out at Suffolk Downs--where, one strange day, a drunk in the racetrack bathroom urges him to bet on ""Jesus Saves."" Thomas, an impetuous sort, complies. . . and wins some $30,000 on this 99-1 shot! Great news? Well, not quite. Because that drunk, who promptly turns up dead (drugged booze), happens to be Jake Bloomberg, the Mob-connected trainer of Jesus Saves; because the race was a fix; because the horse is owned by a shady New Hampshire cult called the Adamites. And because bookish Mob-king Vincent Ciullo (an Ezra Pound fan, we kid you not) compels Thomas to do some sleuthing into this matter--with Mob-enforcer Gerald as huge, impassive sidekick. So Thomas is soon paying a visit to the cult-estate (which doubles as a pricey bordello). He's looking into the life of Bloomberg's daughter Rikki, Combat Zone stripper. And he's finding that almost all roads lead, appallingly, to Wesley professor emeritus Stephen Kenan--a genius-wreck with some unfortunate sexual compulsions. Plot-wise, then, this town/gown mystery uses a number of familiar elements--even if it juggles them brightly, without heaviness or murk. But when it comes to characters, backgrounds, and style, Reeves is a zesty, classy original; and Thomas is the first wise-guy narrator in recent memory to score with virtually every one of his perfectly timed, sardonic asides--mixing the literary and the raunchy as he shifts from one milieu to another, as he broods on his separation from wife Liz. (""She didn't want to be married to an academic who scheduled his classes only after consulting the Red Sox calendar and TV Guide."") Comic without being silly, smart without being smug: a nifty debut.