Chasing the Dime
by Michael Connelly
Henry Pierce is probably one of the last people you'd expect to reach if you were trying to set up a date with a prostitute. Pierce, a young and successful biochemical entrepreneur, has such a single-minded focus on his labwork that his own romantic relationship unraveled in consequence. For Henry is "chasing the dime" in two senses: he seeks to profit from his innovations in the field of molecular computing. Unfortunately for him, his new phone number appears to have belonged to a "working girl" named Lilly, and men are ringing Pierce night and day to set up a date with her. Although initially annoyed, as Pierce begins to try to track down the elusive Lilly, it isn't long before his irritation evaporates into concern. Lilly has apparently disappeared, and as no one else seems willing to try to track her down, Pierce decides to find her himself.
As always with Connelly's books, I was immediately sucked into the story. I didn't find Pierce a particularly sympathetic protagonist; he has a tendency to use other people, as, for example, when he forces his "personal assistant" to do menial tasks such as waiting for his furniture. Worse still, he also tries to inveigle some of his employees into his own illegal quest for Lilly. In addition, Pierce's TSTL level is positively astounding, and, unfortunately, is problematic in terms of his characterization. Not only is Pierce supposed to be a wunderkind scientist; he's also a self-proclaimed paranoid. Why, then, one might ask, when he breaks into a house during his investigation, does it never even occur to him that he's leaving fingerprints everywhere? Such inconsistencies were constant throughout the story, and the plot itself was almost entirely driven by Pierce's implausible combination of carelessness, recklessness, and paranoia.
The plot itself is a wild ride. Even without feeling any attachment for the characters and a twist you can see a mile off, I really enjoyed the breakneck pacing. Unusually for Connelly, the plot involves a significant amount of science, and I admit I was somewhat apprehensive when these elements began to take shape in the story, but overall, I thought his technobabble was pretty good. Every so often, there were some confusions that made me laugh--Connelly apparently considers molecules, atoms, and elements to be fully disjoint concepts, e.g. transforming an element "to" atoms, or his apparent misconception that "random access memory" spits up things randomly--but Connelly's meticulous research was evident throughout. The same doesn't precisely extend to the plot, which is utterly far-fetched and improbable. At the same time, Connelly's masterful use of Chekhov's Gun added tons of fun to the denouement.(show spoiler)
Overall, a very enjoyable story, but unless you're a diehard Connelly fan, I'd suggest staying away--both characters and plot lack Connelly's usual style. However, while the plot starts down the path of tinfoil hats, I still enjoyed the ride.