The Never Game
I read my first Jeffery Deaver book back in 1999, and I’ve been a devoted fan ever since. I don’t love all of his books, but there’s something about his tightly plotted thrillers that keeps me coming back for more again and again. So, when I learned he was coming out with a new series, I was eager to get my hands on a review copy of The Never Game, the first installment.
Colter Shaw is a restless man. Instead of settling down with a wife and kids, he makes his home in a camper which he drives around the country collecting rewards for finding missing people. There are those around him who find this line of work to be rather mercenary, but Colter isn’t one to be bothered by other people’s opinions of what he does. It works for him, and that’s all that matters.
When we first meet Colter, he has recently arrived in Silicon Valley on the trail of yet another missing person. A young woman has disappeared without a trace, and her father has hired Colter to find her. The police have been called, but they aren’t taking the case seriously, so Colter has come to do what he does best.
Almost as soon as Colter begins looking into Elizabeth’s disappearance, it becomes clear that she hasn’t left town of her own free will. Someone has abducted her, and as Colter continues asking questions of those who knew her, he discovers that the responsible party has a motive darker and more deadly than anyone could have imagined. Suddenly, Colter finds himself embroiled in a dangerous game of cat and mouse, one he’s desperate to win before someone is forced to pay the ultimate price for his failure.
Colter Shaw is an incredibly intriguing hero, and I’m anxious to learn more about him as the series continues. He’s the son of a survivalist, and the skills he learned as a child have proven very helpful in his chosen line of work. He’s one of those people who thinks nothing of repelling down a sheer cliff face or scaling a fifty foot wall if such things prove necessary. Mr. Deaver does a great job incorporating Colter’s unconventional childhood experiences into the story, making it really easy for me to believe in his abilities. We’re also given glimpses into a mystery from his past, something I’m guessing we’ll learn more about in future books.
The entire story plays out over about three days, so the plot unfolds at a rapid pace. Even so, the story doesn’t feel at all rushed, and Mr. Deaver ramps up the tension in tiny increments, making this a book I found difficult to put down. Everything Colter learns in his search for Elizabeth is significant, even if the reasons seem unclear at first.
So, why didn’t I give this book a higher grade? Unfortunately, the ending wasn’t quite as satisfying as I was hoping it would be. I love books with big twists, and Mr. Deaver delivers them in spades here, but I got the impression he was trying too hard to shock me. The story could have ended a number of different ways, but he chose the one that was the most complex, the one that offered the most in the way of surprises. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me, but it felt a little far-fetched for so many unknown angles to crop up at the last minute. It’s hard to say more without ruining the big reveal for you, so I’ll leave it at that.
Despite my quibbles with the ending, I’m still glad I picked up The Never Game. It’s a wonderful start to what promises to be another hit series from Mr. Deaver, and I can’t wait for the second installment to be released some time in the spring of 2020.