Monday, March 3, 2014

The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

Stolen art, an avaricious former government official, a lot of junk food, and loads of sexual tension. These are the main themes in The Chase the new novel in the Fox and O'Hare series by bestselling authors Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg. This time around the team have a new mission and a tight deadline. A valuable artifact is about to be returned to China from the Smithsonian Museum. There is only one problem: it is a fake. The real item had been stolen years earlier and instead of admitting the loss the government covered it up by displaying a forgery. Now Special Agent Kate O'Hare of the FBI has to team up again with her secret partner, international criminal Nick Fox. Their job is to find out who stole the item and retrieve it before the Smithsonian hands the fake over to the Chinese government.

Fox thinks he knows who stole the item so he hunts down an old "business" partner. That leads him to the identity of the person who now owns the artifact. That's where the real trouble begins. It is in the very private collection of Carter Grove, former White House Chief of Staff. Grove is retired from government service and now runs an international security firm. Grove loves two things: power and art. With the resources of his firm Grove can build and tear down governments in third world nations. His employees are cold blooded killers. With his resources Grove will be the most dangerous opponent that Fox and O'Hare have faced yet.

The Chase is a fun, cute novel. The plot seems to be secondary to the book. The story only seems to exist in order to form a loose narrative for the interaction between Fox and O'Hare. More importantly in this novel it exists to discuss two things: Kate O'Hare's complete lack of femininity and her crush on Nick Fox. Her lack of anything feminine is driven home time and again. In fact it becomes a rather tedious theme. She dresses poorly, she has a sparsely furnished apartment with a punching bag, and most of all there is her diet. Her diet is enough to make even the strongest stomach feel nauseous. The similarities to the Sandra Bullock film Miss Congeniality are unavoidable. On the other hand is her almost girlish crush on Nick Fox. When she is not eating some form of lousy food she is fantasizing about Fox. The contrast between the two sides of her character do not give her depth, they simply appear to be two different cardboard cutouts that are pasted together. This appears to be a fairly standard motif in "tough girl" literature and film.

The cardboard cutout characters abound in the book. There is Nick Fox, the international thief, who is also brilliant, and cunning, and, most of all, beautiful. The rest of the team are fun if predictable. There is Willie, the Driver. She loves to drive anything with an engine. Cars, boats, planes, it doesn't matter. Give her an instruction manual and she can fly an unfamiliar plane with no trouble. Of course her large, surgically modified bust is also an important character in the story. It makes an appearance when an easy distraction is needed. There is Boyd Campbell, the actor who only lives for his art. More than once his new career in commercials is interrupted for the good of the team. Poor Boyd doesn't appear to have much a future. No one seems interested in the deep emotional depth he keeps trying to bring to mouthwash and pancake commercials. Then there is our villain, Carter Grove. He is rich and ruthless. Not only is he a thinly veiled member of the Bush team, but he is also rich. How can a villain be more predictable, or two dimensional.

All of those criticisms aside the novel is actually fun to read.  It is a light hearted take on what has become a very serious genre. In many ways the Fox and O'Hare novels are more like a television series. If you demand that your books be full of dark, brooding characters and intense scenes of violence and sex then you might want to pass this novel by. If you want a light, enjoyable book and enjoy fun television shows like Rizzoli and Isles or Burn Notice then you should enjoy this book as well. I know that I did.

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