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.