HarperCollins | 2019 (16 May) | 422p | Review copy | Buy the book
Colter Shaw is not your usual private investigator. Neither would he call himself a bounty hunter but he is a reward seeker, just one who doesn’t necessarily do it for the money. His friends, each powerfully placed, seeks out new rewards for him to chase, more innocent people to hunt and rescue, to bring resolution to families. And while he waits for the next case, Shaw continues his own private investigation, travelling the US in his Winnebago, sometimes attracting the wrong kind of attention, sometimes feeling eyes on him. But for now, camped up in California, he is distracted by a new case.
A young girl has vanished and her father is distraught. He’s also poor and can barely afford the $10,000 reward he’s offering. The local police has no interest in what they view as a runaway. But, as Shaw follows the clues, he quickly identifies the scene of a crime. The girl has been taken. And she will not be the last. It all seems very similar to a famous and immersive video game, now distorted and taken to new heights of cruelty. But what does the Gamer want? The case will immerse Colter Shaw and Detective Standish in the obsessive, dangerous and competitive gaming world of Silicon Valley.
The Never Game begins a new series by thriller writer Jeffery Deaver and it is a cracking start! This is a very clever novel. It’s substantial and gives the author time to explore several levels of what is not only a complicated case but also a complex hero. It’s one of those crime thrillers with so much to fascinate and perplex the reader. For me, its main triumph is Colter Shaw. The more that is revealed about the extraordinary background and history of this remarkable and enigmatic man, the more hooked I became. The mysterious background is actually as mesmerising as the kidnapping case, if not more so. I loved the way in which Colter Shaw’s character grows before us. But it’s not fully explained. There is plenty more for future novels to explore.
The novel takes place in Silicon Valley and the countryside and coast of California. It’s an interesting place – rich and aspirational but also full of people struggling to find their way, as well as others who are lost in the alternate reality that the games provide. Jeffery Weaver explores this community and industry in intriguing detail – the people who design the games as well as the people who play them. Colter Shaw could have been a fish out of water. But he isn’t. The case is gripping and it’s also grounded in the lives of those affected by it. Family, friends, acquaintances, local communities suffer. Shaw speaks to them all.
Another element that I enjoyed is Shaw’s relationship with the local police, especially Detective Standish, who is such a fascinating character in her own right. I like the way in which the author spends time creating additional characters that we want to get to know.
I fell for Colter Shaw very early on in the novel and by its end I couldn’t wait to see him again. What a fascinating man he is! I want to know more about him and can only wonder what sort of ingenious and lethal challenge he’ll be faced with next.
I’m delighted to post my review as part of the Blog Tour celebrating the novel’s publication on 16 May and I’m even more honoured to be kicking the tour off! For other stops on the tour, please do take a look at the poster below.