15 December 2019

Review - The Never Game by Jeffrey Deaver

Design by Claire Ward
The Never Game
Jeffery Deaver
HarperCollins, 16 May 2019
HB, e, audio

I bought my copy of this book from Wallingford Bookshop and also listened to the audio via a subscription service. (This was another book I listened to mainly on audio, while driving to the station and back, but as ever I got impatient and read the last 30 or so pages).

I've recently become a fan of Deaver's Lincoln Rhymes crime novels, so was glad to see this new series start. The contrasts - and similarities between the two series are interesting. Rhymes, a forensic specialist ac ting as consult to various law-enforcement agencies, has disabilities and spends most of his time in his home which is fully fitted out as a forensics lab. He has a group of colleagues around him who have built over the course of the novels, and they tend to be the ones who go out to collect the evidence (and actually engage in the detective work) so that the books typically have many points of view, including those of the perpetrators.

Colter Shaw is much more of a loner. (Well, he hasn't had a series of novels in which to accumulate a circle of friends!) He travels the US in a recreational vehicle, making a living by claiming rewards for missing persons, abscondees or suspects. That sounds a quite romantic life - here today, gone tomorrow, everything you need in the back of the van - though Shaw is far from a romantic personality, moulded as he has been by his survivalist father and pursuing a career where he breaks everything down to percentage chances. This book was told largely from Shaw's perspective, so felt much more linear than the Rhymes novels, even though there are many flashbacks to Shaw's earlier life.

There's a mystery surrounding Shaw's family, which I think will become an ongoing theme in this series but given that Shaw is a new player and we haven't yet really got to know him that well, Deaver shrewdly doesn't let that get too much in the way of the immediate focus which is an intricately plotted, related series of kidnappings. In each case the abductee is abandoned in a dangerous location - a deserted factory, remote wilderness, a sinking boat - and for much of the first half of the book Shaw is the only person really aware of what's going on, the police paying little attention and Shaw having to persuade them that something is up. At the same time we know he will succeed in this because the story is bookended by Shaw's attempts to rescue the woman in that sinking boat, something for which his background and experience fits him well. (Shaw's father once insisted on his teenage children going mountain climbing, in the dark as a rite of passage).

If that sounds as though it would drain the tension from the story, well it doesn't - Deaver is far to wily for that! - we get plenty of heart-pounding moments, lots of jeopardy and a series of nested puzzles disguising just what is really going on (there are, of course, many red herrings).

Put simply this book is class and if you want a polished, compelling thriller this book will do the trick, as well as promising future revelations and twists about Shaw and his background.

Would definitely recommend.

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