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Chance: A Novel Hardcover – February 18, 2014

3.6 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, February 2014: Eldon Chance is a neuropsychiatrist in crisis. Though he’s developed a successful career “listening to the woes of others,” he’s rarely attuned to his own. Turns out, he’s got plenty. At the start of this smart, twisty, and addictive book, Dr. Chance’s life--“the life he’d so carefully arranged for himself”--is falling apart. His costly divorce forces him to sell his antique furniture, a decision that introduces him to the remarkable character named Big D, a hulking, unhinged, tattooed, self-proclaimed Iraq war vet turned furniture restorer who becomes buttoned-up Chance’s unlikely friend, mentor, and potential savior. Something of an amateur philosopher (as well as a self-taught Samurai), Big D is drawn to people’s frozen lake obsessions--the things they want so bad they’re willing to walk to the center of a frozen lake, “where the ice is thinnest.” Chance’s frozen-lake desire is one of his patients, the mysterious and dangerously manipulative Jaclyn Blackstone--or, more accurately, her sexier alter-ego, Jackie Black. In his reckless pursuit of Jaclyn/Jackie, Chance confronts her corrupt and abusive husband, an Oakland homicide detective, Romanian thugs, and his own secret past. --Neal Thompson

From Booklist

Psychiatrist Eldon Chance, who makes his living providing testimony in court cases, is appalled to see the life he had so carefully constructed for himself break apart. In the middle of a nasty divorce and a summer full of “drought and ash,” with his savings rapidly dwindling, he finds himself attracted to Jaclyn Blackstone, a patient suffering from dissociative identity disorder. Unfortunately, she is married to an abusive and violently jealous Oakland homicide detective who threatens to harm Chance’s daughter if he pursues Jaclyn. Then Chance meets D, a hulking, philosophical ex-soldier who is working in an antiques warehouse in San Francisco’s Mission District. D proves to be on intimate turns with the mind-set of predators and agrees to coach Chance on how to deal with the detective. Suddenly, Chance finds himself in a violent and unpredictable underworld, far removed from the placid decorum of the courtrooms where he plies his trade. Nunn, best known for the cult surfing novel Tapping the Source (1984), excels at creating complicated, flawed characters with fascinating backstories. This gritty, twisted tale will be of prime interest to noir fans. --Joanne Wilkinson
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (February 18, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743289242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743289245
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #590,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Kem Nunn is not as prolific as a James Patterson(frequently co-authored) or a Michael Connelly,churning out a book annually or biannually. This is a calculated, measured,researched,mystery novel.At times, laugh-out loud funny. This novel is a microcosm of life in the second decade of the 2000's.Addressing divorce,psychotherapy,bureaucracy and America's ever changing ethnic landscape.Peeling back layers of when the formerly well-heeled find themselves down at the heels.Much like Mr.Nunn's other novels,e.g.Tijuana Straits,the locales(Cali/Mex Border v. San Francisco)are as much characters, in these novels, as well as the main protagonists Fahey&Chance,respectively.For the money,Mr.Nunn's releases are a must read.There isn't a writer I've read who understands the complexities and undercurrents of the male psyche and what men will do to redeem themselves for their transgressions.Simply said,This novel is worth your time and money.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I love the story line of an American male getting himself in over his head. Embracing noir but not limited by it, Nun guides the reader to an exciting conclusion, but the protagonist has no guide, except a dysfunctional paramilitary under life hero, a shady antiques dealer and the classic office assistant. The hero is a sinner and the reader is a voyeur. It's a train wreck, page by page. Dr. Chance, who you might catch yourself thinking is a hapless detective rather than a nueropsychiatrist, lets himself descend into a bottomless pit, populated by evil characters, and in a twist that achieves some kind of grandeur, the anti-hero Blackstone surprises us all. This is a good story well told. It's not a work of location fiction, as were Dogs of Winter and even Tijuana Straights, but the characters are superb.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I'm kind of blown away by all of the five star reviews on here. My reaction to CHANCE was basically, "meh". I came close to not finishing it, and its definitely not one I would recommend to a friend. I gave it three stars, because even though I didn't really love the story, Kem Nunn is obviously a talented writer. Much like his other books, the characters are fascinating and I love how bits of them are revealed over the course of the story. The characters of Dr. Chance and Big D in particular are what kept me going through this book. Every time I was ready to bail out, something would happen with those two that kept me reading.

I just read TAPPING THE SOURCE a week or two ago, and that book truly was a five star novel from start to finish. Maybe reading them back to back, I was more disappointed by CHANCE than some other readers.

So what specifically didn't I like about the book? For starters, just from my personal taste, there are three plot devices that I hate: time travel, amnesia and split personalities. This book unfortunately involves the last one, and I'm not sure what it really adds to the story. My bigger criticism though is that the story just seemed to go out of focus so much. There is a pretty clear and sometimes interesting plot in here involving a misguided love interest and a dangerous bad cop/husband. I think if the book had stayed with that story more clearly it would have been more enjoyable. Instead it strays at times into musings or events happen in unclear ways.

Anyway, its not a bad book, but in all honesty I've read many better novels lately, and this isn't one I would be quick to recommend to anyone.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is an intriguing story about a neuropsychiatrist whose life has slowly begun to unravel. It all starts with a divorce which soon becomes very expensive because he's paying for both lawyers. Next the IRS is after him for a couple of hundred thou for non payment of taxes and certain shady business expenses (all the fault of the ex). Meanwhile he can't afford school fees for his daughter who acts up by misbehaving, and he has to scale down his lifestyle and resort to Trader Joe's 2 buck chuck for solace. Just to make matters worse, a patient he's trying his best to help needs protection from an abusive husband who happens to be a rotten cop.
The doctor in question, Eldon Chance, is an ordinary man, a sympathetic character who could be the guy next door because who doesn't know somebody who's had a few hard knocks the way life is nowadays. But Chance the anti-hero has an extraordinary knack for making bad decisions and pretty soon he's off on a rollicking roller coaster ride down the wooden rails as he sinks deeper and deeper into ruin. He starts by having inappropriate sexual fantasies about patients, gets involved in a very shady deal with an antiques furniture dealer and, worst of all, he bonds with "D", a hulking, tattooed, paramilitary "Fixer" with a troubled past and a penchant for bladed weapons. Add a seductive and mysterious math teacher with multiple personalities, a red haired secretary with a silver stud in her lower lip, the Romanian mob, and a dying philosophical Frenchman with a talent for conceptual photography, and you might have the ingredients for a bouillabaisse worthy of Elmore Leonard (who incidentally did a blurb for Kem Nunn's surfing classic, "Tapping the Source").
Mr. Nunn has made his mark writing novels about California.
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