Imagine a snake and a mongoose, circling each other with vicious, deadly intent. That’s the nub of this battle of wits between a sadistic killer and the FBI investigator hunting for him. If you suffered withdrawal symptoms when the TV series ‘Hannibal’ drew to a close then ‘Chaos’ will get that monkey off your back. The duel of wits between profiler Nick Keegan and serial killer Aleksandr Zorin is every bit as compelling and intense as Will Graham’s ongoing struggle with Lecter himself. Similarly, the web of excruciating deaths which draws Keegan into the investigation is as inventively awful as any of the murders seen on the screen.
But ‘Chaos’ isn’t simply an homage to a genre masterpiece, even though it necessarily echoes the themes and procedures so familiar from ‘Red Dragon’ and SOTL. It’s a white-knuckle page-turner in its own right which introduces a chilling psychopathic killer, a murderer warped and honed by his traumatic upbringing. FBI profiler Nick Keegan is Zorin’s mirror-image; similarly shaped by pivotal events in his formative years, equally dedicated to his cause – perhaps incurring fatal costs to his friends and family.
Author DJ Schuette adroitly balances the nitty-gritty of modern crime investigation – a multi-state, multi-agency hunt for a previously unsuspected unsub – with a non-stop barrelling narrative. The procedural attention to detail feels realistic: the gruesome crime scenes meticulously depicted. The action pauses only to deliver emotional moments of genuine intensity – then a rapid change of direction shatters the reader’s preconceptions and we’re (happily) dragged into the depths of criminal depravity. Schuette seems to take gleeful delight in wilful misdirection and subverting expectations, yet his plotting is consistent and coherent, and his characters have credible depth. By the final killer chapter you understand that almost anything can happen as the central characters spiral towards mutual annihilation.
You rarely find all of these elements in a mainstream thriller from one of the big publishers, and this is unusually accomplished writing for an indie publication. Snap it up, people: this is a top-notch psychological thriller from an author who really delivers. The great news is that a sequel appears to be in the pipeline: can’t wait.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Chaos by DJ Schuette is available as an ebook
Find THE STONER STORIES at Amazon