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The Never Game

Review

The Never Game

Jeffery Deaver never fails to impress. It’s not just the sheer volume of books laid across several series (including the magnificent Lincoln Rhyme thrillers) and an impressive number of stand-alone works. All of his novels (and short stories, for that matter) contain various nuggets that make them memorable. Deaver could probably rest on his laurels, or at least slow down by this point, but he doesn’t. THE NEVER GAME, his latest work, begins a new series with an intensely interesting protagonist and a slight change of style that will please both fans and newcomers alike.

The book takes place in the San Francisco Bay area over the course of an extremely busy three days. Colter Shaw, the son of a survivalist family, is known in many circles as an expert tracker. There are no “woo-woo” elements in his skill set. Deaver, always the careful and meticulous researcher, infuses Shaw with abilities that are very human and well-grounded in reality. The fact that he makes an occasional mistake makes him more real and ratchets up the suspense quotient a notch or five during the course of the novel. The skills that he possesses are brought to bear in his occupation as a “reward seeker.” It’s a simple enough concept. If someone is missing or wanted, and a reward is being offered, Shaw shows up and volunteers his services. Occasionally his reputation precedes him.

"There are more than enough intriguing threads to make the wait for the next book in the series excruciating.... There are no losers here, except for the antagonists, of course. We wouldn’t have it any other way."

In THE NEVER GAME, a series of kidnappings occur in which each abductee is placed in dire straits. The doer, if you will, is known as The Whispering Man, and models himself and his actions after a video game. Shaw, like John Coltrane, goes in both directions at once, looking for clues as to the victims’ whereabouts (before it’s too late) while conducting research into the video game industry in general and the makers of the game that features The Whispering Man in particular. The reader can almost hear the clock ticking in the background on each page (or, in some cases, in each paragraph) as Shaw races against time to rescue each victim...and with varying degrees of success.

Meanwhile, Shaw also must deal with certain aspects of his past, which begin to manifest themselves while he attempts to save others. By the end of the book, much is answered but not all issues are resolved. There are more than enough intriguing threads to make the wait for the next book in the series excruciating.

THE NEVER GAME is stylistically a bit different from Deaver’s other works. While it has plenty of heft to it, the page count is less than some of his other works. Chapters are shorter --- three to five pages --- than readers might be accustomed to. The story is also more focused on activity rather than explanations concerning the topics that form the bedrock of the tale (though the author does not shortchange in that area). This results in a more streamlined reading experience that will still be embraced by Deaver’s audience. There are no losers here, except for the antagonists, of course. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 17, 2019

The Never Game
by Jeffery Deaver

  • Publication Date: May 14, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0525535942
  • ISBN-13: 9780525535942