Writer(s): Iris Johansen.
PUBLISHER: Grand Central Publishing.
RELEASE DATE: September 1st 2020.
GENRE(S): Thriller, Mystery.
My Overall Rating:
Imagine having the means to do everything necessary to save someone precious to you but to be restricted in your actions, to have your hands tied together, unable to do anything for ethical reasons. To do anything against those established rules would only result in your termination, in punishments that may affect you for the rest of your life, from banishment to imprisonment. How much would you risk doing what you deem is right? How far would you go to save such a person? When is crossing the line condonable? Author Iris Johansen (Eve Duncan series, The Ugly Duckling) returns with a brand-new stand-alone thriller introducing readers to a new female agent who will do anything to stop clandestine criminals and save someone close to her heart.
What is Chaos about? The story follows CIA agent Alisa Flynn in her rogue attempt to save schoolgirls in Africa who were kidnapped by criminals Jorge Masenak and Leo Baldwin. To do so, she infiltrates a highly securitized mansion where she, unfortunately, gets caught by the billionaire owner Gabe Korgan. Once she exposes her dilemma to him, she invites him into joining her cause. She ultimately manages to spark his interest in her and piques his curiosity in her quest. She then obtains his financial support and gains access to his high-tech weaponry, giving her everything she needs to begin a search-and-rescue mission accompanied by a renowned horse whisperer. However, her focus is mostly on saving a particular girl named Sasha Nalano on top of saving the hostages from their unfortunate impediment.
“Better hurry, Sasha. The clock is ticking.”— Iris Johansen
This turned out to be one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” thing. The premise in itself seemed intriguing, if you don’t look too closely into it, but then once you actually dive into the story and realize its structure, its themes, and its execution, the flaws start stacking up. The story alternates between Alisa’s point of view, surrounded by the crew she’s formed to save the schoolgirls, and Sasha’s point of view, as Alisa’s protégé, a hostage that the enemy has taken an interest in for her talent to “speak” to horses. Why this angle was taken is beyond me but one should always expect horses to be important in the story when there is one on the cover… The scarce action sequences are also separated by dialogue-heavy sequences where characters discuss their plans, who they are, and why they do what they do. This pacing never really works since there’s barely anything truly interesting in these characters to even care about.
If it wasn’t enough that these characters were developed with little attention, depicted with the complexity of cardboard boxes, and showcasing few charming characteristics that could allow a reader to connect with them, the story was also filled with far-fetched ideas that never flourished in any way whatsoever. Especially all things related to horses. Had I known the pivotal and quintessential attention the author would give for them and the silly concept about talking to animals, I wouldn’t have gotten myself into this trap. And then there’s the romance facet of this novel which greatly affected the story’s integrity for me. While there’s a central exposition of the horrors of rape interwove into the antagonist’s playbook, there’s also a sexually tense love story blooming between the billionaire and the CIA agent that couldn’t lack more tact and elegance in the midst of it all. There’s really very little that could’ve redeemed this novel and it didn’t help that the author had an odd fetishism for exclamation marks (!) in the narration. Honestly, this just wasn’t for me.
Chaos is a tedious romantic thriller following a rogue CIA agent’s journey to saving kidnapped schoolgirls from rapists and torturers with a fascination for horses.