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Onyx reviews: The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

Reviewed by Bev Vincent, 02/26/2014

Readers unfamiliar with The Heist, the previous (and first) collaboration between crimewriter Evanovich and screenwriter Goldberg, may find themselves mildly disoriented by the opening chapters of their follow-up, The Chase. Kate O'Hare is a by-the-book FBI agent (or so it seems) who responds to reports of an explosion at a bank on a Sunday morning. She quickly deduces that the blast, which set off burglar alarms for blocks around, was meant to cover up another robbery at a nearby bank. The cops were bound to ignore all these simultaneous alarms. Not O'Hare, though. She figures this is another caper by her putative nemesis, Nick Fox, an infamous con man who escaped from prison and is now on the Most Wanted list. Thus begins a cat-and-mouse (or, rather, O'Hare and Fox) chase, which is broadcast live on TV. The Fox gets away and O'Hare returns home to lick her wounds.

But wait! It's all part of an elaborate cover story designed to mask the fact that it was the FBI who sprang Fox from prison so he can help them with cases where normal, by-the-book tactics can't work. Shades of Remington Steele, indeed. In fact, that's one of the few monikers Fox doesn't adopt in this book. He has a penchant for using cover names drawn from classic crime TV, such as Jim Rockford and Jonathan Hart. 

The opening salvo was like the cold open of a Bond film. The net result was a set of compromising photos being used in a blackmail scheme, which Fox retrieved from a safety deposit box. End of story. However, the main gig in The Chase involves a Chinese artifact that is to be returned to China. It's supposed to be in the Smithsonian, but it isn't. Someone stole it, and a replica has been on display ever since. Kate and Nick's handler, Special Agent Jessup, needs them to get it back before the handover and, as it happens, Nick knows who stole it. The trail leads them to a remote part of Scotland, where a dangerous rogue reveals (for a price) that the artifact is now in the hands of Carter Grove, a former White House chief of staff and the leader of a Blackwater-style security firm. His house is better protected than Fort Knox, so getting the item back isn't going to be easy.

Except when you have Nick Fox on your team. He rounds up some help, including a former Geek Squad member who was a disgraced whistleblower for a high tech firm and an aspiring actor who is first seen on the set of a commercial arguing over the motivation of a human pancake, and they breach the mansion while pretending to be filming a reality TV episode. Getting on Grove's bad side, though, can be bad for the health. He never forgets it when someone crosses him, so Nick and Kate end up on his naughty list (after getting stranded briefly in China—it's a long story!)

The duo and their merry men, including Kate's father, most of whose past is classified, flit from one caper to the next, tapping into security systems, carrying out elaborate robberies, acquiring illicit funds to finance their off-the-books operations, and blowing stuff up. Kate is a former navy Seal, so she can handle herself when push comes to shove. There's little time for in-depth characterization—the bad guys are very bad and even the rogue Fox is a good guy at heart—but that's not what these books are about. They're light, quick-reading thrillers, only a little over 200 pages long with short, punchy chapters and plenty of cliff-hangers. Belief is willingly suspended, over and over again, and the pace is kept at break-neck speed so readers don't have time to realize that in books like these, the capers always work, although not always as planned.

The writing is direct and the two authors' styles blend together seamlessly. The book is light and humorous, and there is also the requisite sexual tension between Fox and O'Hare. He would bed her in an instant and she wants to sleep with him but resists because, well, just because. Where would the fun be if that element of suspense went away? After all, everything can't be tomahawk missiles, clever disguises, drones, electronic surveillance, hand-to-hand combat, submachine guns, explosions, classic cars, bank robberies, car chases, shoot-outs, falls from high rises...

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