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Chaos Theory: A Novel Hardcover – December 28, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (December 28, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375500804
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375500800
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,547,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

We all had those terrible nights in high school. We borrowed dad's car, and instead of rushing home to meet curfew, decided to indulge in a little mischief: party-hopping, drag-racing on a deserted road, or drinking beer during an impromptu "sleepover." But what if the little violation of parental trust turned into something much worse? What if somebody died during that joy ride? What if the events of that one night changed your life forever?

In Gary Krist's Chaos Theory, two college-bound high school students watch an evening on the town turn into the nightmare of a lifetime. Jason Rourke and Dennis Monroe are smart and respectable boys from a suburban Washington D.C. neighborhood. Jason is white and Dennis is black, and their occasional discomfort over racial identity sometimes leads them to a bit of posing. One Sunday night, Dennis, pretending an urban sophistication, convinces Jason that they should head to the seedy side of D.C. to score some marijuana. Their black Audi is an easy target for the dealer, who attempts to reach into the car and grab the boys. They flee the scene, dragging the man behind the car for a moment before his arm snaps, shots are fired, and he falls into the road. The boys return home, their hearts pounding, feeling fortunate to have escaped injury. But the next morning's paper reports that the man they escaped is now dead. And their failed petty crime inadvertently involves them in a mess of city politics when the dealer turns out to be a police officer in disguise.

Krist carefully unfolds the subsequent investigation as the two boys realize that they can't escape punishment. Gradually, the novel evolves into a briskly paced thriller as the deeper implications of the officer's death--and his connections to an insidious political conspiracy--put Jason and Dennis in fatal jeopardy. Throughout, Krist never abandons the careful control of his prose and his characters; one can't help but see oneself in Jason and Dennis's plight. And Krist's observations about D.C.--its corrupt politics, its tragic separation between haves and have-nots, and its pervasive racial tensions--simmer behind every page. --Patrick O'Kelley

From Publishers Weekly

Spinning a plausible situation into an extraordinary story while training a marksman's eye on character, Krist has conceived a sleek and thoughtful thriller set on the streets of Washington, D.C. Two affluent high school classmates, Jason Rourke and Dennis Monroe, leave a boring party and drive to the rough end of town to buy a couple of joints. They find a street-corner dealer, but he mistakes them for other dealers and pulls a gun. The boys manage to speed off in their car, but in the process, they accidentally drag the dealer along, eventually leaving his mangled body in the street. The next morning, Rourke and Monroe learn that the dealer is dead, with two bullet wounds in his body; worse still, the papers say he was an undercover cop. Or was he? The teens are horrified to discover that this event has put them smack in the center of a sinister conspiracy, in which a criminal ring helps important people who want to escape their troubles to disappear. For a hefty fee, the crooks will stage the death, substituting the body of a physically similar homeless person for the person who wants to be declared dead. Krist swiftly twists his white-knuckle story into a frenzied manhunt as Rourke and Monroe flee the conspirators, who will kill the boys for what they know. The boys' parents, the FBI and one of their teachers, meanwhile, are desperately trying to track them down before the bad guys do. Along the way, Krist (Bad Chemistry; Bone by Bone) shows his flair for portraying characters under extreme emotional pressure. Among his best here is Rourke's father, Graham, a man wracked by guilt about his wife's suicide and about his crumbling relationship with his son. Rourke and Monroe are sharply drawn na?fs, who act tough but are really smart, resourceful middle-class kids who care about their friendship and their college futures. Their adolescent na?vet? provides a clean contrast with the complicated outlook of adults in the story, ultimately commenting on the resiliency of youth. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Great story, great writing, well fleshed-out characters, and a very satisfying read.
Daz
Starts strong, but then the plot begins to meander all over the place and this really bogs down in the middle.
D. C. Carrad
This is the story of a dozen or so real and believable people, undergoing real and believable turmoil.
"voldor"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you read the first 5 pages of this book, you won't stop until the end. But Chaos Theory is more than a superb thriller. It is an engrossing look at Washington, DC (the town I live in) in the mid-1990s, amid rampant corruption and civic decay. And it is peopled by sharply drawn characters that drive home the real human stakes of good--and bad--government. Krist has an amazing ability to put himself inside the head of people of very different ages and social circumstances. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I read Gary Krist's Chaos Theory in a single day. I picked it up after hearing a great review on NPR's Fresh Air, and it was even better than advertised. The suspense never lets up, and there are some really interesting, well drawn characters, but what really made it interesting for me was the picture it gave of Washington D.C, the city the locals know. I lived there in 1995-7 and the District really was on the verge of collapse. Nothing worked and who knows what was going on under all the confusion? Chaos Theory gives us an idea of what can happen in a city when chaos lets the strong take advantage of the weak. Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By "voldor" on April 6, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I generally don't care much for or about thrillers, but I knew this author from his short story work, so I gave it a try. And I have to say, it hooked me from beginning to end, keeping me awake for most of two nights. The book follows the conventions of the thriller genre, but what makes it (for me) are the characterizations. This is the story of a dozen or so real and believable people, undergoing real and believable turmoil. I think what turns me off to most thrillers is the lack of this sense of real people. If they're just cardboard cutouts, who cares if they're in danger? But the characters in Chaos Theory aren't just complex, the'yre also full of the odd personality bits and pieces that you always have with flesh and blood people. You really feel you know these characters, so you're caught up when things go wrong for them. I really didn't want this book to end, and so my first reaction when I finished was to pick up Krist's other thriller, Bad Chemistry (me, somebody who doesn't read thrillers!) I guess there goes another night or two of sleep.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sherrie Martin on February 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
(Originally submitted 02/10/00) What if 2 good and normal 17-year-old boys found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and saw something they weren't supposed to see, which actually wasn't what they thought they saw at all? This is what happens to Jason Rourke and Dennis Monroe in the beginning of this superbly plotted novel. From that point on, they become fugitives, suspects in a D.C. cop killing. They know something is up when the picture of the dead cop in the newspaper is not of the same man they ran down in their car while escaping as he tried to rob them at gunpoint. As the story progresses, Jason is on the run, hidden out by high school teacher and former investigative reporter Renee Daniels, their friend and confidant, while Dennis, who didn't run fast enough, is kidnapped by a sinister group of men. Harcourt, the allegedly dead cop, was the subject of an investigation into stolen evidence. At the same time, it has been noticed that certain homeless denizens of the city who bear a resemblance to high profile criminal suspects are disappearing with alarming regularity. When Jason confides in Renee the bizarre story of what he and Dennis did and what they saw and what they subsequently learned from news reports, as well as a drugs setup at school involving both of them and being chased by men who may or may not be police officers, she turns to her old friend, FBI agent Frank Laroux. Frank is skeptical of the unlikely story he's hearing but, as he begins asking questions and compiling data, he begins to believe the boys are telling the truth. While Jason is put under FBI protection, Dennis is still missing and, as the pace of Laroux's investigation picks up, finding him becomes a race against time. This book is what a great thriller is all about.Read more ›
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By N. Theodorou on February 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chaos Theory marries the intellectual pleasures of a literary novel with the unstoppable momentum of a thriller. Amidst drugs, conspiracies, kidnappings, and dead bodies, Gary Krist examines the dynamics of family and race and the dysfunction of city government. He has the literary writer's eye for the single, telling image and he uses it skillfully without ever slackening the pace of his narrative. Mr. Krist also has the literary writer's knack for creating memorable characters whose dialogue rings utterly true. This book is a page-turner with a brain and a soul. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chris Beakey on February 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Gary Krist's second book is a compelling thriller about people in jeopardy who are forced to desperate means to fight their way out. It moves swiftly and forcefully, with plenty of hairpin turns. The ultimate message -- that the corruption that's been tolerated for years here in Washington has had a frightening real-life impact on our lives -- is delivered in a subtle, memorable way through the actions of the characters, and the forward momentum of the plot. It's a beautifully written book, a page turner with substance.
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