Published by Bantam on February 25, 2014
Janet Evanovich is a capable writer and a talented storyteller (Lee Goldberg might be also, although I'm not familiar with his work), but The Chase is too cute for its own good -- certainly too cute for readers who are looking for a meaty thriller. The Chase is so over-the-top that I was unable to buy into the plot or the characters. The cheesy banter between Kate and Nicolas, meant to be witty and suggestively sexual, seems designed to appeal to preteens. The Chase is intended as light reading -- a cross between romantic comedy and a thriller -- but it's so fluffy and insubstantial I felt like I was reading a cloud.
Special Agent Kate O'Hare is chasing the dreamy Nicolas Fox and not just because she would like to cuddle up against his lean and firm body. Fox seems to have robbed a bank but, as O'Hare knows, he has stolen from a safe deposit box at the FBI's direction to obtain evidence because the FBI is apparently unwilling or unable to get a warrant to search for it. The crime (the details of which are left unexplained) is ridiculous and O'Hare should go to prison for having any part in it. How she manages to reconcile her profound sense of law-and-order with her willingness to subvert the Constitution while being a party to a bank robbery is something Evanovich doesn't explain. I always have difficulty cheering for a hypocrite and O'Hare's self-righteous justification for breaking the law (repeatedly) doesn't endear me to her.
Now the FBI needs O'Hare to commit a crime that's even more preposterous: stealing a bronze rooster from the highly placed man who bought it from the thief who stole it from the Smithsonian. The man is so highly placed (think Karl Rove) that the FBI doesn't want to "embarrass" the country by arresting him. Eventually yet another theft needs to be orchestrated and the novel turns into a low-budget version of Ocean's Eleven. Unfortunately, the method used to commit the crime is far from innovative and not even remotely credible.
Evanovich works so hard to make O'Hare "tough but feminine" and Fox "devious but charming" that both characters seem inauthentic. They fit nicely into their stereotyped boxes but they lack believable personalities. O'Hare's "I just got stabbed and killed my assailant -- let's have champagne!" attitude wears thin quickly. The chemistry between the smitten FBI agent and the rakish conman with "lightly tousled" hair is utterly predictable and, for that reason, uninteresting. The villain is about as deep as Snidely Whiplash.
The parts of the novel that are meant to be funny failed to amuse me, but I often chuckled at parts that were not intended to provoke laughter (O'Hare's superdad carries hand grenades in his golf bag and the Karl Rove character, no longer in government, can instantly launch a predator drone armed with Hellfire missiles within the United States by making a phone call). Much of the novel is just too easy for O'Hare and Fox ("oh, don't worry, the secret door won't be guarded") and too many things that shouldn't be easy (like stealing from safe deposit boxes) are glossed over without explanation. Part of the novel takes place in China but it might as well be Kansas City. The local color sounds like it was cribbed from a tourism website. Evanovich does better when she describes the high-end outlet mall in Camarillo, California, a place she has apparently been. The ending is even sillier than the story that precedes it. The story moves quickly and parts of it are fun, but there are not enough of those parts to recommend the novel as a whole.