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Although I have never read a book by Jeffery Deaver before I was so excited to get the ARC to read The Never Game. I read the blurb out to my friends who all agreed that this book sounded perfect for me. I have been an avid gamer all of my life, I love going to escape rooms and crime thrillers are one of my preferred genre of books so on paper this book sounded absolutely ideal. This may also be why I’ve held it to very high standards and ultimately come away disappointed though!

To start with I don’t think Deaver is a gamer, and it was a little obvious that some of the gaming aspects of the book were under researched or that liberties had been taken to suit the plot. There is no way for example, that a game released in the 80s would have a whole level that no-one had ever been able to complete, nor that only 9 people in the world had completed the one before it. I also found it incredible unlikely that gamers would be ok with watching a current news broadcast every time they started up a game – ads are one thing but it would be a massive undertaking to do in every state, let alone international releases. I liked that a female gamer who was a grinder and used twitch was a character but as all the other gamers we meet are men living in smelly basements little is done to break stereotypes – the police of course all laugh at how stupid these people must be to waste their time on video games. I did like the introduction to the excitement and pitfalls of VR gaming though.

I thought the prospect of the murders based on a video game was really interesting but actually the crimes themselves aren’t well developed or explained. The 5 items the victims are given are completely side-lined and the perpetrator just leaves an easy escape route available for most of them so the items didn’t actually correlate to anything. I would have preferred to have seen the crime from the victim’s perspective and been introduced to more of the puzzle element of the crimes rather than the police just mentioning that 5 items had been randomly dumped with them.

I was a little confused that this is the first plotline that the author chooses to introduce his new protagonist – Colter Shaw (yes, it’s an unusual first name and we are hit around the head with that fact repeatedly). Colter is a reward hunter, a man brought up on a remote compound by survivalist parents – the flashbacks are mostly about hunting and trapping which is so completely at odds with the plot of this book. I don’t really think the target audience for the plot are the target audience for the main character and this is a really odd choice for the start of a new series.

There were a lot of red herrings in the book as well, almost too many and the actual reveal was done so fast I almost missed what was going on. I found myself just wanting the book to end – not helped by the fact that after the main plot is finished the book then carries on trying to set up a main through-line for the rest of the series that I had thoroughly lost interest in.

Overall, as a gamer I really didn’t enjoy The Never Game despite a love of crime fiction and a plot that looked like it was made for me. It’s too odd a clash between plot and character, with a drawn out story and under researched topic that failed to keep interest. Thank you to NetGalley & Harper Collins UK for a copy of the ARC in exchange for a (very) honest review.

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