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Posted March 4, 2014
4.5 stars (but rounded down because Chance was not quite a 5 star read for me)
At first, I was a little put off by Chance's tone of voice; he seemed very dry and clinical, too distant for me to empathize with. I soon realized, however, how brilliant Nunn's choice was; the juxtaposition of this cool, self-analyzing voice with Chance's poor decisions made those decisions really stand out:
"If one was looking for a level head in the midst of catastrophic decline, then Carl Allan was hardly your man. What the brief visit produced were complementary forms of paranoid ideation lapping up against one another like wavelets on a stony shore, each feeding off the intensity of the other."
The author note at the end of Chance states that Nunn is both a novelist and a screenwriter and that he has written episodes of Sons of Anarchy, a show I enjoy and which contains similar ambiguities regarding the characters' motivations. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a sophisticated psychological thriller.
I received a free copy of Chance through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Posted August 27, 2014
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The page before the first page by Ken Nunn contains a definition of the word “chance,” which concludes with the sentence “Sometimes granted agency, as in Chance governs all.” “Chance” is also the name of the protagonist, one Eldon J. Chance, MD, Associate Clinical Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry at UCSF Medical School. He is a forensic neuropsychiatrist (a new term for this reader) whose primary source of income these days is as an expert witness at or in preparation for trials. “He rarely saw someone more than once or twice and rarely worked with them as patients.”
Now, separated from his wife after 20 years of marriage and with “his personal and financial life in such total and utter disarray,” despite always before being “a believer in caution,” he has found himself becoming fixated on first one, then another, of those patients. The latter of these is also the more fraught with complications and potential danger, both psychic and physical, Jaclyn Blackstone, a 36-year-old woman living in Berkeley thought to suffer from apparent “dissociative identity personality disorder. About 50 pages in, the tale morphs into something much more sinister. The problem arises from the fact that Jaclyn’s husband is not only violent and possessive, but is also a cop. Chance finds himself “half in love with an impossible woman, a potentially malignant blip on another man’s radar.”
Chance believes that “[l]ike Houdini, we construct the machinery of our entrapment from which we must finally escape or die.” And he certainly does that. He is aided by a totally unique character, a seemingly deranged loner who makes it his current life’s work to assist Chance in extricating himself from either his relationship with Jaclyn, or at least, one way or another, from its more dangerous aspects. His characters are very well-drawn, and the plot engrossing. (And his appreciation for Chet Baker and Charlie Parker is certainly a plus.) Though generally well written, I found some of the writing to be less “smooth” (for lack of a better term) than the rest, and therefore a bit uneven. That said, “Chance” is certainly interesting, and it is recommended.
Posted August 23, 2014
If the bar is a psychological thriller pace, then CHANCE didn’t measure up. It moved at a slow, leisurely pace instead of an all-out race. The vocabulary and sentence structure weighed in with a bit more heft than one might expect from your typical thriller, but I still felt shortchanged in the end. I had higher hopes for this tale, but I ended up facing the firing squad of disappointment with my head lowered and my hands held high.
Jackie Black proved a bit more intriguing as a character than the prim and proper Jaclyn Blackstone, and Dr. Eldon Chance certainly had more than a few issues to work through. And there were other characters with issues to spare, leading the charge of disparity and marching out of step. Which did up the interest but I still managed to end up less than fully engaged. What made me shift a little more to the left was the forgettable nature of this troublesome tale.
Nothing really stood out for me. Instead of being twisted in knots, I found myself sorely lacking in the suspense department, and maybe I didn’t know about the bomb underneath the table that was about to go off, or the detective with the threats that seemed a little less demanding than I would have preferred. Either way, I ended the tale somewhat impressed with the writing but feeling as though the story lacked more than a few thrills.
I received this book for free through NetGalley.
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Posted July 11, 2014
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