The Never Game (Colter Shaw 1) by Jeffery Deaver

74% successful…

😀 😀 😀 😀

Sophie Mulliner is missing and her frantic father has offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who can find her. Enter Colter Shaw, professional “rewardist” – a man who uses the tracking skills instilled in him in childhood by his survivalist father to hunt for missing people for the reward money. The case soon becomes more complicated when another person goes missing, then another. Colter, teaming up with local police detective LaDonna Standish, must try to find each victim while they’re still alive, while also attempting to work out who is behind it all and what they’re trying to achieve. Soon the investigation will take them deep into the gaming industry in Silicon Valley, full of eccentric designers and cut-throat competition, and the whole weirdness of people who spend more time in virtual worlds than the real one.

As well as the main plot, this first in a new series fills us in on Colter’s unusual upbringing and the mystery that still hangs over him from back then, which is clearly going to become a running story arc over future books. Colter’s father bought a huge wilderness property and called it the Compound, on which he brought up his three children to be able to survive anything nature or mankind could throw at them. Although Colter then went on to college and is perfectly comfortable in the outside world, his childhood has left him unwilling to settle in a routine job and too self-sufficient to work for someone else, so he travels around the country in his Winnebago, sometimes for pleasure, sometimes chasing down a missing person for the reward money. But he’s not a traditional loner – he has friends and people he works with professionally, and still regularly goes back to the Compound to visit his mother. His father taught him to make decisions based on probabilities, so when making any decisions he runs through the various options allocating each a percentage rating of success. These percentages appeared to me to be entirely arbitrary and so became increasingly pointless and annoying as the book went on. I do hope Deaver drops that in future books because otherwise Colter has all the makings of an excellent series protagonist.

Jeffery Deaver

It took me a while to get into this and it never really turned into a heart-pounding thriller for me, but I liked Colter and loved LaDonna (who unfortunately probably won’t appear in future books, since Colter doesn’t stay in the same place for long), and I found the background story about the world of gaming interesting (though I suspect it may drive real gamers crazy since Deaver explains everything at a really basic level for the novice). It is too long at 450 pages, and the divide between the actual plot and Colter’s back story slows the pace too much, especially in the early section. The plot has lots of interesting twists and turns, though these aren’t always executed as smoothly as I’d expect from an author with Deaver’s long experience. However, the writing is excellent for the style of the book – that is, it’s plainly and clearly written, third person, past tense, with a nice balance between characterisation and action, and I gradually found myself absorbed in it. I must admit I actually found the mystery relating to Colter’s past rather more interesting than the main plot in the end, and it would be it that would tempt me to read the next book.

So overall, a good start to what has the potential to be a great series – I’d say there’s about an 81% chance of that. I look forward to finding out.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, HarperCollins.

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40 thoughts on “The Never Game (Colter Shaw 1) by Jeffery Deaver

  1. Hmm…Colter sounds like an interesting character, FictionFan. I’m glad there’s some depth to him, even in the first book of the series. I could definitely see how he’d grow as the series moves on, and I have to say, a survivalist parent adds an interesting twist. I like story arcs, too, so long as I start at the beginning of a series. I’m a bit of a fussbudget, stick-in-the-mud purist about that, to be honest.

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    • Hahaha! As you know, I’m terrible for jumping in mid-series and reading things all out of order, and I must say it was quite refreshing to be reading Book 1 first for a change! The survivalist backdrop was interesting, especially since it becomes clear that Colter’s father had a reason for fearing the outside world… but we don’t yet know what that reason was…

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  2. It was a bit long, but I did enjoy reading the beginning of a new series and have the second book (The Goodbye Man) on hold at my local library. They will be lending books again starting this week, so I may get to read it sometime this summer.

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    • I find most contemporary books too long – I much prefer faster moving stuff, especially in thrillers. But I did find both parts of the story interesting – the gaming and the survivalist father plot strand. I’d like to read book 2 too, but I’m not sure when I’ll get to it. Hopefully before I forget book 1! 😉

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  3. Sounds as though this has potential, certainly with an interesting central character, but I don’t think I will be rushing to it, my list is too full just now, and I’m not getting very far with it. Maybe one day.

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    • I did enjoy this, but not enough to be trying to convince you to add it to your tottering heap! The second book has just come out, but although I’d like to read it sometime, it’s not at the top of my list either…

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  4. I think this sounds interesting and it reminds me of a book I read where the female lead was someone who tracked down lost people. She had an interesting background of her own, as well. Hmmm…. now I feel the need to look back and find that one and see if the author made it into a series.

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    • Haha, it’s all totally scientific, of course! 😉 Yes, I feel sometimes that authors have forgotten that thrillers are supposed to be thrilling, which kind implies fast-paced…

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    • I used to read him way back when he first started but lost track of him over the years – I never took to his previous recurring detective. He’s a good writer though! Yes, 450 pages is too long, especially for a thriller – it’s hard to maintain a good pace for such a long time…

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    • I used to love his books back when he first started, and then he developed a recurring detective I just couldn’t quite believe in, so I stopped. But he’s a good writer! 450 pages is definitely too long for a thriller – it’s hard to maintain any kind of fast pace over such a long book.

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  5. Well, I’ve got to say that I have so many books, I no longer find myself able to read that many pages. BUT if I were to read that many pages, I would do so only if I felt compelled to read them. A 74% success rate wouldn’t trip the “read on” switch.

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    • I’m not sure whether you’d like this one. I think you’d like the characters and the basic story is fine, but it is kinda slow-paced for a thriller. Replace it, I say! You can always read it later… 😀

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  6. Well I’m sold. At least 81.5% sold 😶 I like the sound of the backstory, less keen on the gaming element. It will have to wait it’s turn though, behind quite a line of similar genre novels. Which gives it maybe a 53.7% chance of being read this decade 😝

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  7. Oh my, 450 pages? That sounds way too long. And the whole percentage thing would wear on my too. It’s interesting that you mention you expect more of Deaver considering his experience-I do this too, having higher expectations for bigger writers-they should truly know better 🙂

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