REVIEW: Chance by Kem Nunn

Series: N/A
Book Number: N/A
Read this book for: psychological thriller, multiple personalities, partially unreliable narrator, California mystery, domestic mystery
Quick Review: A fascinating, spiralling, yet sympathetic descent into something near madness taken by a neuropsychiatrist.
Dr. Eldon Chance, a neuropsychiatrist, is a man primed for spectacular ruin. Into Dr. Chance’s blighted life walks Jaclyn Blackstone, the abused, attractive wife of an Oakland homicide detective, a violent and jealous man. Jaclyn appears to be suffering from a dissociative identity disorder. In time, Chance will fall into bed with her—or is it with her alter ego, the voracious and volatile Jackie Black? The not-so-good doctor, despite his professional training, isn’t quite sure and soon finds himself up against her husband, Raymond, a formidable and dangerous adversary. Meanwhile, Chance also meets a young man named D, a self-styled, streetwise philosopher skilled in the art of the blade. It is around this trio of unique and dangerous individuals that long-guarded secrets begin to unravel, obsessions grow, and the doctor’s carefully arranged life comes to the brink of implosion.

CHANCE is a California noir-style psychological thriller about a neuropsychiatrist as his life spirals out of control in the wake of his obsession over a patient. Dr. Eldon Chance is something of an anti-hero, but Nunn does a wonderful job of making him irresistible.
Nunn writes the story from Chance’s point of view, allowing us to see the inner workings of his mind as his obsession over Jacklyn Blackstone gains control over his life and his actions. Occasionally impulsive bad decisions fuel that spiral, but interestingly, despite the fact that Chance’s behaviour is wildly out of line, he never becomes unlikable. In fact, you might find yourself actually sympathizing with the rationalizations that Chance uses to continue his increasingly criminal activities. Nunn’s deft work makes an unhinged character seem relatable, in a way that’s almost frightening to look back on as a reader.
The noir setting also helps to skew your perspective toward accepting the strange, as nothing is quite normal or what it seems in this story. This slightly shifted reality reminded me of art pieces likeTwin Peaks, where that slight sense of unreality and strange characters and occurrences helps to re-frame your mindset and take you out of your typical tendency to quickly pass judgements on characters and their actions. That makes reading this novel an experience unto itself.
The characters’ experiences are also shaped by this weirdness, and the fact that they, too are a little bit different than you were expect. Nunn creates incredibly strong and interesting characters that are easy to care about. Without spoiling anything, the more you learn about Chance’s past as the novel progresses, the more interesting he becomes. Even secondary characters have multiple dimensions and defy categorization. The ending also ties in perfectly with what you finally come to realize about who Chance is as a person.
A harrowing, fascinating read, CHANCE definitely deserves to be experienced! Nunn shows incredible skill in the way he has crafted this novel — it’s not to be missed.
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