Seventeen-year-old Kami is into science, way smarter than she should be, a little obtuse, and born to investigate. The kind of girl who excels in Martial Arts and runs a chaos theory experiment in her locker. Kami finds a way to focus her talents when she meets Daniel, whose younger sister Julia died from an overdose of prescription drugsdrugs that the cops think came from Daniel’s stash. First Daniel turns up at Kami’s MA class, and later she saves him from a couple of drug dealers at the local skate park. Neither episode endears him to her, but Kami views life as a series of data points, and in Daniel’s case, the data do not add up. Her theory turns out to be correct: Daniel is taking he fall to protect his sister’s reputationand to work with the cops to find out who really supplied his sister with drugs.
Kami assembles a team of sleuths to help Daniel meet those goals. Top of the list is her best friend Sandy, who can con anybody out of anything, every time. Sandy’s boyfriend Sam, editor of the school newspaper, is researcher in chief. Then there is gorgeous Gavin, a computer genius whose abilities to help are hindered by the fact that he’s already in trouble with the cops for hacking. Daniel’s novice police handler provides a link to law enforcement.
The trail leads to the local stables, where Julia kept a stash of drugs. The team next uncovers a link to the manufacturer of the drugs. Working with the police, Kami goes undercover as an intern at the pharmaceutical company that makes the drugs that killed Julia. But she’s not the only undercover agent on the trail.
In Chaos Theory, first time author M Evonne Dobson not only tells a fast-paced mystery, but also explores her protagonist’s deep need to understand the chaotic lives of those around her, lives that refuse to be neat, clean, and simple. Especially when death happens to those you love. Set in Iowa, Chaos Theory is a young adult contemporary crime novel, the first in a proposed series tentatively called The Kami Files.
Read an Excerpt
Book #1 of the Kami Files
By M Evonne Dobson
Poisoned Pen PressCopyright © 2015 M Evonne Dobson
All rights reserved.
On one of those stupid first-day-back-at-school-after-the-holiday days that falls on a freaking Friday, I open my locker door. The faint buried scents of sweet honeysuckle and earthy sage drift out. With them come the painful memories, hitting me like concrete blocks. Thud. Thud. Thud. There's only one thing worse. One day they'll be gone, like her.
"That's him!" my BFF says. You know when Sandy's coming. After her baby sister arrived, her Viva la Juicy gave way to baby powder.
"Him who?" I shove the hurt back into my locker with the scents and paw through my junk. "Blasted book is in here somewhere." Since Grandma's death, the locker is now an experiment in chaos theory. I've filled it with insignificant things: scribbled notes on a napkin, battered show and music programs. Insignificant but not insignificant, each small item might trigger a huge change for someone in the future.
"Daniel. The guy who killed his half-sister," Sandy says in her I've-got-the-whole-scoop voice.
"For real? A guy killed his sister?" Then, "Got it!" I yank the book by its spine. We both pause, listening for a clinker.
For every item put into the locker, I include a different colored marble as a control. As the junk pile shifts, the marbles sometimes rattle down the vertical interior cupped door tracks to the metal base with a clunk. Sandy calls them clinkers, and has attached unscientific portents to them.
Nope, not this time. Life goes on like we'd never stopped to listen.
"Yesss." Sandy's been extending her ending 's' soundsss for agesss—same with exclamation points when she texts. By threatening her life and my forever ire, I'd weaned her from emoticons.
"Daniel was home from military school visiting his dad and his half-sister," Sandy says. Military school equals delinquent to everyone at our high school. "She found his drug stash and did herself in."
"Did herself in? Have you been watching the film noir movies I lent you?"
"Hey. I'm hooked! That's all I did over holiday break. Your fault." Sandy leans in close to re-emphasize her point. "He did, though. Kill his half-sister. She overdosed on his drugs."
I glance over at the guy. He's scruffy with an army buzz—not a combination that works well without ink, and he doesn't have any. Suicide isn't unheard of at our school, and it's sad, but ... "If she committed suicide, how did he kill her?"
I shove the escapee items back into the locker. Again, we pause to listen for a clinker. None. Then I snap a smartphone photo of my newly shifted junk pile—my research data.
Sandy shoots me a look that relegates me to our classes' bottom half. "Kamiii!"
Yes, she likes extending my name too.
"Didn't you watch any news over Christmas? Daniel was dealing stolen prescription drugs. His half-sister swallowed them and killed herself. Amy said he was arrested right by the grave! They took him away in handcuffs!"
"Then why is he here?" This sounds like the ten percent of gossip Sandy gets wrong. On the phone, I swipe back to the last photo of my locker and compare how the mess has rearranged itself. Fascinating.
"Dah. He's waiting trial and can't leave town. Julia Jamison was a freshman here. Everyone loved her!"
Julia Jamison? The name rings a bell even in my dense brain—Jamison of Jamison Industries. In our town if you don't work for the college, you work for them, and the family's worth millions. I doubt Sandy ever met Julia. The freshmen have their own separate entrance and they don't mix with juniors.
Sandy reaches over and slams my locker door shut. Even angry, she pauses, as I do, to listen for a clinker. Nope. Then she flutters her hands in front of my locker like a bird with broken wings.
I say, "Do you want to spit at it too? You can't wave and make it disappear."
"Well, if I could, then I'd wipe away your stupid—Chaossss Theory in a five-by-one-by-one foot experiment." Her hands flutter again. "This is the craziest idea you've ever had."
She's ticking me off now. "Don't knock it. Chaos Theory explains how a .02 of a thousandth in data can make huge changes in the end result. Do you know how tiny .02 of a thousandth is?"
"I know!" She flaps those hands in my face. "That's what my hands are doing!!! A South American butterfly flaps its wings and causes a tornado in Texas two years later."
I knock her hands away and she thrusts them onto her hips, puffing up like an angry songbird.
She says, "I get your locker experiment. I'm sick of it!"
Definitely ticks me off now. "This study is going to win the state science competition, and if I am lucky the regionals ..."
"And then you'll get your precious full-ride scholarship to any college but here in Iowa. WHERE I'M GOING TO BE, BY THE WAY."
I ignore the last part, not wanting to get into that argument again. "It can be in the Midwest, but MIT would be nice."
"You have a one-track mind." Sandy takes off to share the scandal with someone else. I wasn't properly shocked by her announcement. That and she gets morose when college plans come up.
I check out the guy again. With his size and muscle, he should look big and scary, but he acts like he might run for it. His broad shoulders hunch over as he holds the dredges of those damaged and scuffed up textbooks left over after everyone else has their choice. Do memories thud, thud, thud out of his locker like mine?
* * *
My favorite study hangout isn't at high school; it's the college library. I slip by students in the lobby and disappear behind a nondescript metal door that leads to a narrow stairwell. My footsteps echo on the metal mesh steps—eight flights of them. My hideaway's behind a dark, cramped area in the stacks that smell like dust and mold. The odor lingers in the stairwell. I missed that over the holidays.
At the first landing, my phone vibrates. It's a text from Sam, a Sheldon Cooper look-alike, a forever friend, and popular school blogger.
Buzz. About what happened?
What happened? I pass landing two.
Buzz. After band class?
Nothing happened after band class. Landing three and then four, I shift my heavy backpack and keep climbing. Four flights up and behind a creaking fire door and past floor-to-ceiling bookcases is my hideaway. A crank moves them to access shelves hidden from view—engineering awesomeness.
Buzz. It was an accident.
Sam's lost it. Landing six now. Grandma, a retired college librarian who died in August from cancer, had told me about this secret place between chemo barfs.
Landing eight—AC to AZ—categories: Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, back issue Newspapers and Periodicals, Yearbooks. On the snow-covered ground below, coat-bundled students will be racing along the cleared sidewalks, deftly negotiating ice patches to duck into heated buildings, completely unaware of me looking down on them.
Buzz. You're killing me here.
Not now, Sam. There's barely room to squeeze through the towering bookcases with my backpack. Ahead is my place, with its four study carrels, two on each side. Behind them is a leather sofa, perfect for cuddling up with my laptop, a sixties crap steel coffee table, and two easy chairs. Someday, they'll have to cut them into pieces to remove them.
My phone vibrates with Sandy's ratta-tat-tat alert. I sigh, back-step out of the tight space, and check the screen again.
Sandy: Accident??? Three questions marks.
Sam: No, but not like that. I wanted our first kiss romantic.
Wow. I check the address area. Sam meant to text Sandy. Instead, he's used an old one for Sandy and me. Curiosity keeps me on the wrong side of the bookshelves waiting for the next reply.
Sandy: Dah!!! Three exclamation marks. You texted Kami too?
Busted. I text: BFF remember? No secrets.
Sandy: Kami—take a hike. Sam—meet me at my locker—NOW.
Sam: Arghhh. So embarrassing.
Sandy: No, it's sweet. Now stop texting. Private—you & me.
Go away Kami!!!
And the texts end. About time that kiss happened. I squeeze through the bookcases into my private sanctuary.
* * *
It isn't private anymore. Drug Guy sits at a study carrel. His massive back is to me and his military-buzzed head hunches over his laptop. It isn't right. Before she died, Grandma, a retired college librarian, gave this place to me!
He's keyed in "teen drug arrests" in our small town on Google. His feet scrape as he wraps them around the chair's base and leans closer to the monitor, blocking my view.
I set up at a carrel behind and face away from him, staring at my Google homepage. Then, jumping onto the same search he had, read away. There are a lot of arrests, most at the local skate park.
I shove my chair back. It hits something, and I look straight up into Drug Guy's face. He stands there with his bulging backpack over one shoulder. His large, heavy-duty hands on the strap tighten, loosen, and tighten, making hard fists. Every time he does it, his keychain strikes his pack's zipper.
Clink. Clink. Clink.
His fingers are long and elegant for a guy, but strong. The nails trimmed short and well kept. No dirt underneath them. Like his military buzz without ink, they don't match his scruffy clothes—nor does the hint of Irish Spring soap and pine trees.
He's blocking me from getting up. Screaming is useless, unless someone's searching old periodicals—read: never—no one will come. Above his dragging pants, he has a lean, muscled chest. This Drug Guy can do damage. I ease my legs under me and prepare to fight. Like Sensei tells us in defense class, don't threaten, but don't back off either.
Drug Guy turns and disappears into the stacks. The heavy metal door on the other side creaks as it closes. I let out a long, slow breath. He made his point. Stay away. Back off. Whatever. He warned me without saying a word.
* * *
It's twenty-five miles to my martial arts class. On Monday after school, I find a parking spot and yank my gym bag out of EB's trunk. Inherited from Grandma, the car is E - Electric, B - Blue—obnoxious color, but free. I text Sandy again: Where are you? There'd been no texts or phone calls since Sam's screw up. And for my BFF, a full weekend without contact is just wrong.
Sandy, the woman of many words, at last replies with a single word: Busy.
And doesn't that say it all: "Bug off, Kami."
We need to talk, I text, feeling compelled to know more rumors about Drug Guy.
The entrance leads into an atrium with crappy fake grass and palm trees. Fountain water splashes beneath a skylight. On the right is the yoga center and on the left is the martial arts complex.
For me, yoga is a prelude to my martial arts class and not about nirvana. It's for battle. Starting with judo and karate in middle school, the beauty of jujitsu drew me in, and the violence of taekwondo became a logical companion. Since I was decent competitor, but not a great one and lacking the size and strength of most male students, Sensei suggested a yoga class. He said it would prepare my mind. He'd been right. With proper focus, I have more intent than his other students. I'm top class now. With that comes respect.
In the locker room, I change into my white Dogi and head back to the atrium, where I sit with legs crossed behind the fake fauna until my class starts. Sinking into my meditation mantra, my hands rest like cautious birds on my knees. The sun warms my face through the skylight. My senses and breath attune to the fountain's gentle splashing.
* * *
Clink. Clink. Clink.
Cold replaces warmth—a shadow between me and the sun.
His clothes rustle as he shifts his weight. I catch a whiff of his pine forest smell. When I look at Drug Guy, I'm centered and ready. We aren't alone this time. Students tromp through the entry. Sensei is in his classroom. Screaming is an option. People will come. Again, an odd detail pops out: his leather Doc Martens clash with his loose gang/rapper look; expensive Nike skate shoes would have been a better choice.
He says, "Are you stupid enough to follow me?"
"One, I'm dressed for class. Two, you're in street clothes. And three, I've been here an hour."
He ducks under the fake palms, heading for the MA doors. I whisper after him. "Your shoes don't match. Disguises start from the underwear out."
He pauses, but I close my eyes, dropping back into my meditation mantra, "Kick ass. Kick ass. Kick ass." Yeah, I'm not seeking nirvana. There's fifteen minutes before my MA session and two classes at 6:15—the one for elementary kids and my advanced group. He'll be in mine. Stay centered.CHAPTER 2
The katas are beautiful and that's what sparked my martial art interest—not some queer desire to destroy everything. Still, each elegant move is a deathblow. In the mirror, I watch Drug Guy work out in the back row. His movements are executed with power. Impressive. After the warm-ups, we move into sparring and I stay well away from him.
My plan works fine until the end of class. Sensei claps for attention and we shift back into rows as he says, "This is Daniel." He summons him to the front of the class. "He's transferred in from North Carolina where he trained under a friend of mine. Kami, come up here."
I step forward, keeping my eyes on Sensei, not on Drug Guy by my side. Sensei's friend's rec or not, I'm not going to like this.
"Face the class and repeat the beginning kata together." He picks up the drum and sets a rhythm that is worlds faster than anything that had come before. Flying through the set, I can't peek at Drug Guy by my side. His breathing is heavy but slow. Mine is huffing. At completion and, giving up the I'm-fine pretense, I lean over and suck in great gulps of air. Sweat drips off my chest.
"Good." Sensei calls out. "It's about time you were pushed, Kami. Do it again, face-to-face."
The room goes quiet and the sound of the air rushing in and out of my chest is all I hear. Sensei can't be serious. Yes, we practice routines like that—the katas becoming a duet dance, each a mirror image of the other, but never with someone new to class. When every movement is meant to maim and kill, it isn't something you do without a ton of trust. Trust Drug Guy? No way.
This drug creep threatened me when I was alone. If he wants to have an accidental misjudgment of distance or timing—well, say knockout. Only the look of terror that flashes across the guy's face eases my worry. My breath is a steam engine; my movements can easily go astray. If I drop one on him, no one will question if it's on purpose or not.
"Now." Sensei barks. He begins the rhythm and it isn't any slower than before. We bow and fall into the routine with caution. As we progress, mirroring each other's movements, the deadly strikes flow inches from each other's faces and bodies. I think we both feel exhilarated. I am. My old sparring partner moved to Colorado last spring. It's been months since my body's been pushed this hard. It feels good, really good.
When it's over, with chest heaving and legs quivering, I bow to Drug Guy and grin at Sensei. Sparring matches with this guy won't be fun, but there's no question that he'll be my unwilling partner. He'll push me. He'll make me better.
I shower fast, throw on my school clothes, and dash for my car. An unpredicted light snow drifts down. Crap. I never leave town if it's going to snow; Mom and Dad will be freaking.
In the parking lot, Drug Guy is standing next to a tank-shaped man who looks like a comic book heavy, complete with no neck and red beefy hands. Tank's loading up elementary kids into his silver minivan, scrawny Dogi pant legs sticking out beneath parkas. Once the kids are tucked in, my new sparring partner shakes the guy's hand, palming a piece of paper into his. The minivan takes off, while Drug Guy heads for a red Ford Mustang—classic model. As he opens the door, he scans the parking lot, sees me, and freezes.
Excerpted from Chaos Theory by M Evonne Dobson. Copyright © 2015 M Evonne Dobson. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Chaos Theory (The Kami Files) by M. Evonne Dobson is a young adult crime novel. Kami is a seventeen year old girl is loves science. She is conducting a “chaos theory” experiment in her locker. Kami tends to be oblivious to other things going on around her, she likes martial arts, and likes to solve problems or find answers. Daniel is the new boy in school. He had been in military school until he was arrested for drugs (according to the school grapevine). Daniel’s sister, Julia, committed suicide with drugs and Daniel claimed the drugs belonged to him. Daniel gets arrested and is turned into a confidential informant in order to get the people who are actually obtaining the drugs. Something does not add up for Kami when she hears this story. As she gets to know Daniel, Kami is determined to find out what happened to Julia. So Kami, Sandy (Kami’s BFF), Sam (Sandy’s boyfriend), Gavin (boy who is interested in Kami) and Daniel start to investigate along with help from the local police (these kids actually ask for help). This book is hard to get into. It is very disjointed at the beginning and jumps from one scene to the next. As you get further into the book, the scenes flow better and it is easier to read. Once I got further into the book, I enjoyed reading it and wanted to find out how things were going to turn out. It is a good mystery, but very easy to solve. I think with a little bit more editing (at the beginning), this could be a very good book and the beginning of a great series. Happy Reading! I received a complimentary copy of this novel from NetGalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
In the first installment of her young adult mystery series, M. Evonne Dobson delivers a great plot and entertaining read in Chaos Theory. High school senior Kami is your not-so-typical school-ager. Sure, she is capable of drama queen moments, but it’s her senior year and the success of her Chaos Theory science project is the only separation between her landing acceptance into a mediocre college or MIT, the one she covets. She’s spent countless hours cramming inconsequential stuff into her locker. She is detailed to a fault logging analyses into her diary to support her theory of its significance: scribbled notes on a napkin, battered show and music programs—insignificant but not insignificant...each small item might trigger a huge change for someone in the future. BFF Sandy is Kami’s constant. Granted, she may have fleeting thoughts of Kami’s borderline craziness at times, but she’s her best friend nonetheless. When dark and hunky Daniel shows up on the scene, little did either girl know they were about to jump feet first into the investigation of his sister Julia’s suicide...or was it suicide? Between countless trips to the barn, skate parks with more than sketchy patronage and a whole lot of who done it along the way, Kami and her entourage are going to get to the truth no matter the consequences. M. Evonne Dobson knows her young adult audience and knows it well. The essence of writing to this particular audience is no different than that of a children’s audience. Credibility is an absolute must. There is no cheeky dialogue among her high school peers. Rather, there is grounded drama when drama demands a presence. There is tension when sticky situations present themselves—i.e. hormonal confusion when boy meets girl; girl meets boy and the tantamount moment when boy and girl go in for that kiss—a kiss that is more than a peck on the cheek. There is a balance between the conflict of the ‘them and us’ theory when an adolescent is faced with the ridiculous notion that a parent knows better than he or she ever will. Her dialogue is crisp and her ability to set up a scene by showing her audience versus telling is spot on. In true mystery fashion, Dobson teases her audience with just enough information to will them to turn the next page. Sometimes it’s a give; other times it is an 'aha moment.' This is the perfect formula to keep a young mind engage. I applaud Ms. Dobson for writing a solid mystery that certainly appeals to her intended young adult audience. I look forward to the next in this series. Well done Ms. Dobson! Quill says: Chaos Theory is a solid read and a good example of the passion a gaggle of kids possess toward never giving up until they are satisfied the truth has been exposed.