Mysterious Book Report No. 155

by John Dwaine McKenna

Some of the best thriller and crime fiction stories are built around the premise of an ordinary person being put into an extraordinary situation.  For example . . . Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and as a result, develops supernatural powers which totally change his life as he becomes ‘The Amazing Spiderman,’ a crusading crime fighter and doer of good deeds.  Far fetched?  Absolutely, you betcha.  Does it make for good stories?  Ditto.  What I want to emphasize however, is not the Spiderman stories, but that one extraordinary event which changed him forever and made him a super hero.

In Chance, (Scribner, $26.00, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-7432-8924-5) by Kem Nunn, we’re introduced to Dr. Eldon Chance, a forensic psychiatrist who makes his living by reviewing the medical files of persons accused of committing a crime, then testifying in court as to their sanity.  He’s a perfectly ordinary guy who’s estranged from his wife, about to be divorced, living in an apartment while his soon to be ex-wife is living with her personal trainer boyfriend and Chance’s estranged teenaged daughter in the house Chance used to own, and is still paying for.  He’s a guy who is teetering on the precipice of ruination, if not damnation.  It’s been years since Chance has seen a patient, because his type of practice doesn’t require it.  He’s a disaster just waiting to happen, and happen it does when a patient named Jaclyn Blackstone is referred to him, suffering from periods of memory loss and an inability to concentrate for long periods of time.  Dr. Chance diagnoses her as possibly having a multiple personality disorder, brought about by physical, psychological or sexual abuse.  She’s married to an abusive Oakland homicide detective who’s threatened to kill her if she tries to leave him.  Of course, she’s a gorgeous California beauty with drop dead good looks and a huge sexual appetite . . . making it oh, so easy, for Chance to commit the ultimate breach of medical ethics and tumble head over heels into bed with her.  Suddenly, his ordinary life is turned upside down as Dr. Chance is hunted by Jaclyn’s morally bent, jealous husband and his cohorts in the police department.  In fear of his life, Chance hooks up with a misfit, ex-special forces soldier known only as ‘Big D’ who tries to instruct the hapless psychiatrist in urban guerilla fighting techniques without much success.  The novel is twisted, suspenseful and diabolic, just what you’d expect from a writer of TV shows like Sons of Anarchy and Deadwood, which in fact Kem Nunn has done.  Action and intrigue fans will be entranced, delighted and absorbed!

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