The page before the first page by Ken Nunn contains a definition of the word “chance,” which concludes with the sentence “Sometimes granted agency, as in Chance governs all.” “Chance” is also the name of the protagonist, one Eldon J. Chance, MD, Associate Clinical Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry at UCSF Medical School. He is a forensic neuropsychiatrist (a new term for this reader) whose primary source of income these days is as an expert witness at or in preparation for trials. “He rarely saw someone more than once or twice and rarely worked with them as patients.”
Now, separated from his wife after 20 years of marriage and with “his personal and financial life in such total and utter disarray,” despite always before being “a believer in caution,” he has found himself becoming fixated on first one, then another, of those patients. The latter of these is also the more fraught with complications and potential danger, both psychic and physical, Jaclyn Blackstone, a 36-year-old woman living in Berkeley thought to suffer from apparent “dissociative identity personality disorder. About 50 pages in, the tale morphs into something much more sinister. The problem arises from the fact that Jaclyn’s husband is not only violent and possessive, but is also a cop. Chance finds himself “half in love with an impossible woman, a potentially malignant blip on another man’s radar.”
Chance believes that “[l]ike Houdini, we construct the machinery of our entrapment from which we must finally escape or die.” And he certainly does that. He is aided by a totally unique character, a seemingly deranged loner who makes it his current life’s work to assist Chance in extricating himself from either his relationship with Jaclyn, or at least, one way or another, from its more dangerous aspects. His characters are very well-drawn, and the plot engrossing. (And his appreciation for Chet Baker and Charlie Parker is certainly a plus.) Though generally well written, I found some of the writing to be less “smooth” (for lack of a better term) than the rest, and therefore a bit uneven. That said, “Chance” is certainly interesting, and it is recommended.