How many of you out there have picked up a book looked at the cover blurb and thought, “Hmmm…this has potential.” You flip it open and start to read, and think to yourself that the author has an easy-to-read style and a nice pace, this won’t be to bad. Only to find yourself at 2 a.m. banging your head against the book going “Aaagh! Stupid, stupid, stupid…” in reference to latest idiotic move on the characters’ part. Well, this was what I experienced while reading The Chase – a lot of potential dashed by a ton of frustration.
Claire Hayden and her husband David are having problems. They haven’t had sex in nearly a year and are virtually strangers to each other. During David’s fortieth birthday party, Claire realizes the marriage is over. But before she can suggest divorce, she finds David brutally murdered. Bizarrely, not only is there an apparent lack of motive, but the weapon dates back to World War II.
Claire becomes suspicious of a guest at the party, Ian Marshall. Ian claimed to be a friend of David’s, but that was clearly a lie. Claire confronts Ian at the funeral, only to be brushed off. She runs into him a short time later at her father’s art gallery and basically accuses him of murder. Ian explains that David had contacted him about a man named Elgin, who was a Nazi spy and a murderer. Ian figures David was murdered because he was blackmailing Elgin, which means Elgin was someone David knew and, more importantly, someone Claire knows. Determined to prove her loved ones are innocent, Claire follows Ian across the country and eventually across the ocean in pursuit of a killer who started murdering six decades earlier and will kill again to keep their identity a secret.
Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? So much potential for a great mystery. Alas, it was supposed to have a romance too, which caused 50% of my frustration. The other 50% came from the fact that the characters acted like imbeciles.
First off there is our heroine, Claire. This woman got on my last nerve. Her husband has just been murdered, and yes her marriage was on the rocks, but it was still hard to believe that after a 15-year relationship she’d be declaring her love and sleeping with another man in less than a month. A man who, less than five days earlier, she thought might have murdered her husband. A man who thinks her father could’ve been a Nazi spy and murderer. A man she doesn’t trust. Yet there she is going “I love you,” and I’m there going “Excuse me? When did this happen?” I flipped back several pages looking for the signs that led to this big revelation. I couldn’t find any, beyond the fact she found him good-looking. She spends practically the entire book disagreeing, disobeying, and not trusting Ian. She argues with him, yells at him, betrays his trust, and even leaves him, all the while professing her love. Color me slightly confused.
Ian’s an okay guy. He works for a Jewish institute as an investigator of war crimes, hunting down surviving Nazis. He seems intelligent enough and has a good reason for pursuing Elgin. He’s following the clues and, even though this could be construed as revenge, he’s actually operating within the boundaries of the law. The problem is his love for the shrewish and indecisive Claire. The only reason I could think of for his loving her is a hidden masochistic streak on his part.
As for secondary characters, Claire’s father, Jean-Léon, was the most annoying and loud. He always seemed to be yelling, or at the very least exclaiming, demanding, and crying out. It went a long way towards explaining Claire’s behavior. Claire’s honorary aunt and uncle, Elizabeth and William Dukes, are left too undefined to justify their role in the story.
There was a touching love story though, which takes place in flashbacks to World War Two between Elgin’s Jewish cousin Rachel and Ian’s Uncle Eddy. Rachel was actually an intelligent and thoughtful character, who relied on common sense and instinct and didn’t deserve the fate she got. Eddy was a nice enough character, if a bit clichéd. He is an American who couldn’t wait for the war to cross the pond, went to Europe, and bluffed his way into the RAF. We know Eddy’s sad fate early in the book, but I didn’t know it was going to come at the price of a TSTL moment. When I say TSTL I mean it literally. Eddy acts like a heroine in a horror flick who goes downstairs without turning on the lights when there’s a serial killer in the house (which, btw, is LLB’s definition of too stupid to live)). In Eddy’s case it’s a Nazi spy, and he knows it’s a trap when he goes downstairs. This was the point in the book that had me banging my head and going, “Aaagh! Stupid, stupid, stupid…” at 2 a.m.
I didn’t hate The Chase. Unfortunately, my disbelief was stretched to the limits and then some. I couldn’t identify with or understand most of the characters and their motivations at all, and even when I did, their actions were frustrating and aggravating. I should also warn readers a little over half of the book is a flashback to World War II, so if you prefer your story in one time period, this really isn’t the book for you. This was an easy, quick read and had some really interesting moments, but overall it was an aggravating waste of potential.