Book Review: The Never Game by Jeffery Deaver
By Ray PalenMay 21, 2019
The Never Game is the first a new series from acclaimed thriller writer Jeffery Deaver, following the adventures of expert tracker Colter Shaw.
Colter Shaw was named after the mountain man John Colter of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He was named so because his father was a student of the Old West. It is this young man with the unique name that is the protagonist in a new series from veteran thriller writer Jeffery Deaver. The Never Game introduces Colter, who was raised in a survivalist family and whose tracking skills are at an expert level. He utilizes this skillset to make his living as a “reward seeker,” someone who collects rewards for finding missing persons.
In The Never Game, the subject of Colter’s search is a young woman named Sophie Mulliner. Her father, Frank, has asked for Colter’s help, as his reputation precedes him and there has been no success in local law enforcement locating his missing daughter. Colter gathers all the information he can from Frank before he sets out. One of the seemingly significant bits is the fact that Sophie had a boyfriend named Kyle Butler, who allegedly did not treat her well.
Colter begins tracking Sophie’s trail and finds one of the last places she was seen—San Miguel Park, San Francisco. The park holds some clues but also provides more questions, such as the discolored rock that may be stained with blood. When Colter dials Sophie’s cell phone, he hears a return ring somewhere in that very park.
Colter finds Kyle—who claims he brought no harm to Sophie—and they continue to follow clues Colter has turned up, leading them to an abandoned factory. Things take a violent turn when Kyle is shot dead by someone within the factory. Colter makes his way stealthily inside and finds Sophie very much alive. She initially accuses Colter of getting Kyle killed but soon settles down once the situation is fully explained to her. Now, local law enforcement is paying attention to Colter and taking his skills seriously—and not just because he proved his tracking expertise but also because another person has been kidnapped and they need his assistance.
Everything begins to point to a subject matter with which Colter is not at all familiar—the world of video gaming. He attends a local gaming convention and befriends an enthusiastic gamer named Maddie Poole. It is with Maddie’s help that Colter begins to see that both kidnappings are linked to a game called The Whispering Man. This game puts various characters in a different “escape room” situation with just 5 random items to be used for escape.
The first level is the “Abandoned Factory.” With 10 levels of play to be found in this video game, Colter Shaw realizes he has to stay one step ahead of a dangerous killer who enjoys treating human beings as playthings to be discarded with once they have exhausted “a life.” This will take him deep into the video game industry within the Silicon Valley and cause him to have to traverse the Dark Net where real danger lies around every corner and “level of play.”
I see The Never Game as a comeback novel for Deaver. Not like he ever left the game; in fact, he has consistently put together solid novels and short stories but found his work sometimes lost in the shuffle of a myriad of new thriller writers who joined the large list of his contemporaries that are still out there. With the infusion of a new, hip series like this one featuring Colter Shaw, we have the opportunity to see a fresh Deaver, who now has a very modern character that allows him to dive into new territory like the gaming and dark-net backdrop he uses in The Never Game. With a new TV series based on his Lincoln Rhyme character also in the works, it looks like Mr. Deaver will once again be the household name he always should have been!