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Book Club

Hope Never Dies, By Andrew Shaffer - Reviewed by David Wood

"Hope Never Dies is an amusing story that sprinkles just the right amount of humor into a solid mystery story."

Joe Biden is unhappy. Since leaving office, he spends his time doing projects around the house, adding inches to the spare tire around his midriff, and missing his best friend. At least, he thought they were best friends. Eight years and now Barack doesn’t even call. Meanwhile Barack Obama is busy partying on yachts with celebrities, tooling around in his aftermarket upgraded Escalade, and in Joe’s opinion, probably holding auditions for the role of new best friend.

Joe’s boring life is turned upside-down when Barack drops by late one night to deliver some disturbing news. Joe’s favorite train conductor has been killed under suspicious circumstances. Found on the body were drugs and a printout of a map to Joe’s house. This event sets Joe, eventually joined by Barack, on a trail that leads them into peril as they seek to unravel the mystery of the friend’s death.

The title and premise are hilarious, and one can’t wait to dive in. Don’t expect the literary equivalent of the Obama-Biden memes that have flooded the Internet since the new administration took office. Hope Never Dies isn’t that sort of humor, but it’s a good read.

The book is told in first-person from Joe Biden’s point of view. This serves to give us insight into Joe while leaving Barack to be a somewhat mysterious, even idolized figure. Shaffer carefully selects age-appropriate idioms for Biden’s character. He uses phrases like “hill of beans” and “Johnny Crabapple.” He likes baseball, alludes to the Mendoza Line, but doesn’t seem to know that Mariano Rivera retired five years ago.

The book is slow going at the outset. The first dozen chapters reflect his state of mind. He’s bored, bitter, and saddened by the death of his friend. There’s a bit too much navel-gazing, and not a great deal of humor, but the first act sets up the stage for what’s to come, as Joe attends the funeral, talks with grieving family members, and dipping his toe into the mystery.

It’s not until Obama reappears and joins the investigation that things really get rolling and the humor picks up.

The interplay between Biden and Obama is great. Lots of subtle details illustrate the fundamental differences between their characters. Joe is plainspoken. Barack is a borderline know-it-all who frequently corrects, lectures, or injects little asides into the conversation.

When they stop at a convenience store, Barack buys a green tea. Joe fills a coffee cup with honey mustard dressing. Some of the best laughs result from the bickering between the two. They argue over how to best disguise themselves. Joe picks on Barack about his drone fetish. Barack is annoyed that Joe refers to “joints” as “marijuana cigarettes.” Joe interrupts one of Barack’s little speeches with "here comes the hopey changey stuff.”

In a book like this, some partisan political humor might be expected, but most of the laughs relate to the relationship between Barack and Joe, and not so much in regard to politics. There are a few allusions to politicians and couple mentioned by name, but there’s a definite balance. In a single page the two make cracks about Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Strom Thurmond, and “that short-fingered clown.” In a couple instances, Biden spares a thought for the way things are changing for the worse, in his opinion, but these are brief and general, and are perfectly in line with things the real Joe Biden might think.

Hope Never Dies is an amusing story that sprinkles just the right amount of humor into a solid mystery story.  

 

~~Originally published in new york journal of books, the web's most comprehensive professional book review. Reviews of other books are available at: www.nyjournalofbooks.com

CLICK HERE to purchase book or copy URL into your browser: http://www.amazon.com?_encoding=UTF8&tag=wwwtos5com-20

 

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