Friday, November 16, 2018

Book Review: Chasing the Dime by Michael Connelly

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Mostly strong plot, interesting characters
Cons: Pacing in the second half is off
The Bottom Line:
Departure novel
That has some pacing issues
Worth it for his fans

"What Happened to You?"  "I Got the Wrong Number."

Michael Connelly is known for his police procedurals, and he is a master of the genre.  However, Chasing the Dime is a departure for him.  Not only is Henry Pierce, the main character, a complete amateur, but he runs a biotech company.  While I wouldn't call this book a complete techno thriller, but it definitely leans that direction.

As the book opens, Henry Pierce is just days away from the greatest triumph of his career so far.  The company he has founded is about to apply for patents for new nano technology that will change the way the human body is treated.  He has a potential major investor coming to view this new process with the possibility of funding his company and further research for a the next few years  However, his personal life has fallen apart as he has recently split from his fiancee and is moving into a new apartment.

With a new apartment comes a new phone number, and it is the phone number that gets him into trouble.  He keeps getting phone calls for someone named Lilly, and it quickly becomes clear that Lilly is a prostitute.  He begins to suspect that something has happened to Lilly and wanting to track her down consumes his thoughts.  He begins to follow a trail leading to her instead of spending this final weekend making sure everything is ready for the patent applications and the presentations.  Will he find Lilly?  Will he destroy everything he has built in the process?

While Pierce may be an amateur, this is definitely not one of the cozy mysteries I normally read.  Then again, this is Michael Connelly, so that shouldn't be any surprise to anyone picking up the book.  If you pick it up expecting the usual assortment of language, sex, and violence, you'll be fine.

The book starts out strongly.  I did have to question Pierce's motives to staying as involved as he was, but that is explained by the end.  Somewhere early in the second half, the book begins to lose its way as Pierce's work becomes a larger factor.  Yes, some of that is used again before the book is over so it needed set up, but my attention began to wander.  However, when things picked up again, the pace didn't slow down again until we reached the ending.

Pierce makes for a departure as a main character for Michael Connelly since he's an everyman.  He has no business getting involved in the criminal world as he does here.  He's a highly skilled chemist, and his approach to the world from his science background helps him piece some things together the police would have missed.  However, I feel like he made some stupid decisions over the course of the book.  I was actually yelling at him at one point to stop what he was doing, but he kept right on doing it.  However, when he pieced everything together at the end, I was impressed with how he did it, and how he survived the climax.

The rest of the cast of characters is strong.  As usual in one of Connelly's books, we get a wide variety of characters, and he pulls them all off easily.

I had to laugh at how poorly this book has aged.  It was released in 2002, and it shows.  Landlines and pagers are a large part of the plot, for example, and Pierce connects his computer to the internet via a landline as well.  It's amazing how much technology has changed in just the relatively short amount of time between when this book came out and now.  On the other hand, the technology that drives this book still hasn’t happened, at least to my knowledge.  If only that part would become fact.

This is considered one of Michael Connelly's stand-alones, and you can certainly read it as such.  However, any fan of his books will recognize some of Pierce's backstory ties into earlier books Connelly has written, and there is a very brief mention of something that happens at the end of City of Bones, the last Harry Bosch book to be published before this one came out.  If you aren't familiar with Connelly's earlier books, you'll be fine starting here, but if you are already a fan, these are cool Easter Eggs.

Once again, I listened to this book on audio.  Jonathan Davis does a good job with the story, although I felt he had some characters get irritated or angry with each other too easily.  If I'd been reading the book, I don’t think I would have interrupted the lines the way he did.  Heck, one character came across more as an annoyed teenager than I think she would have even with the lines she was given.  Overall, this was a very minor issue for me, however.

The pacing keeps this from truly being one of Connelly's best books, but it is still worth reading for his fans.  Eventually, they will want to chase down Chasing the Dime.

This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

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