I got a chance through NetGalley to read the newest release of Janet Evanovich’s, The Chase, in return for an honest review. I noted later that it wasn’t strictly written by Evanovich, but co-authored by Lee Goldberg. I wasn’t concerned. Several years ago, I had started reading Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels and had been quite fond of them. I fell away from the series some time ago due to time constraints, and was looking forward to seeing what the author had been doing in the meantime, and exploring a new world she was writing in.
I couldn’t have been more disappointed.
There is a standard of writing I attempt to hold authors to, particularly when they are well-known and traditionally published. For example: I expect them to equal to, if not better than, myself and my fellow MFA students. We are creative writing students, looking to be published ourselves. I don’t find this to be an unfair criteria, particularly for someone who has published the amount of novels Evanovich has.
But when she doesn’t seem to have grasped the core concept of “show, don’t tell,” I don’t know what to say.
If I’m entirely fair, I don’t know what pieces Evanovich write and which ones Goldberg wrote. But since I’ve heard of one and the other is referenced as a “best-selling author” on the cover, I think it’s a fair criticism of both of them. I don’t need to know every detail of Kate’s plane ride. I don’t need to know what time it took off in comparison to Nick’s, and I certainly don’t need to know what she/he ate/did on the plane. (Let’s not even get into the food. I’m positive that this isn’t a crime thriller; it’s a story about one woman and her debilitating battle with food addiction. I would not be shocked if a quarter of the words in this book are dedicated to the foods Kate O’Hare puts into her face.)
The wording is overdone and the explanation is facile. There are errors for simple grammatical issues that the author should have caught–and if not them, definitely the editor. The complete names of the characters are shoved in our faces each and every chapter as if this were written for serial publication rather than as a book. (Yes, we remember. Kate O’Hare and Nick Fox. Thanks.) Sentences like “Kate mentally rolled her big blue eyes” and “Carter Grove was living in a forty-nine-million-dollar, twenty-three-thousand-square-foot beachfront estate” are unnecessarily complicated at best, leaving the in-depth discussion of Kate’s meals and the turn by turn description of every car ride they take simply leave me feeling as if I should be following the bread crumbs to figure out what Nick is doing myself. When the writing reminds me of a mockery of radio dramas, something’s gone wrong.
Add into this the fact that the characters are unbelievable, at best. No, I don’t have trouble thinking that the FBI has gotten a thief to work for them. There is plenty of evidence for that happening in the past. Nor do I necessarily have a trouble with Kate and Nick having chemistry. Also, it’s a book form of an action movie. It happens. But if you want to write Kate feeling conflicted, you need to actually have be be conflicted. She talks a good game, but the reader isn’t convinced, let alone herself—and it doesn’t read as if she’s fruitlessly attempting to convince herself of what she knows to be false. It just reads as flat.
The crème de la crème of this whole debacle is a scene on a plane, where after witnessing a fairly gruesome murder and being self-described as being “a millimeter away from vomiting,” she still manages to find a way to get herself together…by eating a candy bar she found on the floor where it had fallen during the fight.
…Yes, because how I fend off nausea at seeing a dead body is by eating chocolate. As I said, the sad and devastating tale of Kate O’Hare and her food addiction. Tragic, it really is.
Nick, on the other hand, flips from completely nonchalant thief and silver-tongued jerk to genuinely concerned love of Kate’s life in a heartbeat. I cannot get a read on him to save me, and the way he reads is that this is intentional. While you can keep a character on that edge, it makes more sense if 1) it’s more dramatic and accompanying a change in body language, and/or 2) Kate noticed. Which she doesn’t. So.
The most believable character in the novel is Boyd Capwell, well-meaning but fairly stupid actor. Why? Because he’s a caricature—and one that exactly fits what most people like him are. He is obsessed with Art (in capitals for DRAMATICS) and won’t take a role unless it speaks to him, and tosses aside anyone who doesn’t agree with his Dramatic Interpretation. I’ve known actors like this. He’s annoying as all get out, but at least he reads as real.
There are a few lines worth salvaging. The opening line of “It was 10 A.M. on a warm Sunday morning when the bomb exploded at the First Sunland Bank in downtown Los Angeles[…]” is good, if too long to bother quoting all the way through, and Willie’s description of “I like cars the way I like my men. I pick them up, grab the stick, and drive them hard down the straightaways and fast around the curves” is quite possibly the best line in the book. But they are few and far between.
Under most circumstances, this is not a book I would have finished. It was painful to read and I cannot speak to how glad I was when it was over. And as long as Evanovich continues to place her faith in other authors, I will not be reading another of her books. On her own, she had skill. I can’t tell what’s become of it.
Rating: * (Not Worth It)