Author: Linwood Barclay
Series: Chase #1
Genre: Children’s Thriller
Age Range: 9+
The Incredible Journey meets Gordon Korman’s On the Run in this exciting middle-grade thriller.
Chipper is a very special dog. He’s part of a multi-million dollar experiment at a secret organization known only as The Institute. The Institute has been experimenting with dogs, melding them with state-of-the-art computer technology. But there’s a problem with Chipper. His natural dog instincts often overrule his computer side. No matter what he’s doing, if he sees a squirrel or a mouse, he’ll drop everything to chase it. So The Institute has decided it’s time to pull the plug on Chipper. Chipper manages a daring escape with a destination in mind, but a team from the Institute, led by the cold-hearted Daggert, is hot on his heels.
Twelve-year-old Jeff Conroy lives with his aunt and helps run her business, a lakeside cabin-rental operation that caters to fishermen. Jeff desperately misses his parents, who were killed in a plane crash a year earlier. But at least he’s made one friend: Emily, whose ex-cop father owns a similar business down the lake. And Emily, a computer whiz, has the coolest fort ever: a trackless, abandoned train station in the middle of the forest.
After eluding his would-be captors, Chipper boards a bus and ends up in the country, only to be hit by a truck that Jeff is driving (underage). Jeff takes Chipper to the train station to nurse him back to health, and it’s here that he and Emily discover a computer port in Chipper’s collar, and once Emily hooks her laptop to it, she and Jeff discovers that Chipper’s arrival is not random. He has been looking for Jeff — and now so is Daggert …
Source: ARC from Orion Children’s Books via Amazon Vine
I found this an exciting, intriguing read that should really appeal to young thriller and sci-fi fans. Chipper is not your average dog, thanks to the scientists of the Institute, but their failure to actually train the dog they’ve shoved all their expensive tech into means that while he might be a super intelligent spy dog with the ability to do unexpected and extraordinary things, he’s also easily distracted – especially by squirrels.
I have to say, the whole super-smart-dog-distracted-by-squirrels thing really reminded me of Pixar’s Up, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because I love Up, but it also felt a bit too easy. Chipper is a border collie. Untrained they will chase anything, not just small furry mammals (like car wheels or bikes or anything going faster than a walk), so I feel like there could have been more scope for Chipper’s distracted behaviour.
It also takes a very, very long time for Chipper and Jeff to meet. On the one hand this is okay because Chipper’s escape is action-packed and full of peril enough on its own. Jeff’s own life, however, is the complete opposite as his aunt works him tirelessly around her fishing cabins. While it’s nice getting to know Jeff and I definitely felt bad for him having to do all he does, I also spent most of his scenes wanting to get back to Chipper and all the action. Once the two do meet, things definitely speed up and the story really begins to take off.
In all this is a good start to what promises to be an exciting adventure series. Chipper is super smart, Jeff is just crying out for a more interesting life, they have a few good friends, the bad guys are really bad and there’s a final twist that might leave readers howling at the unfairness of not being able to read more just yet. In all, this is definitely one for readers seeking excitement and adventure.
Chase is Out Now.
Visit Linwood Barclay for more details.