For this month’s Writer’s Book Club, I decided not to review Starter Villain by John Scalzi. I stopped reading it barely halfway through because nothing was happening. The protagonist asks a secondary character three or four times, “Why are we here?” — my thoughts exactly. The protagonist had no goal and no agency. Even though the book is humorous, that wasn’t enough to make me want to finish it.

I have found that the downside to becoming a better writer is that I’ve also become a more critical reader. I’m more adept at critiquing a book’s structure, characterizations, setting, etc. If the story is well-constructed, I’m all in. If not, I won’t waste my time reading it.


Cover of The Never GameThen I listened to the audiobook of Jeffrey Deaver’s novel The Never Game (narrated by Kaleo Griffith), and I finished it! So, for this month, I’ll review this suspense thriller.

In The Never Game, Colter Shaw is a “reward seeker,” traveling the country to find missing persons in return for rewards. He’s not a bounty hunter—he doesn’t want to bother with the regulations—nor is he a retired police officer. But he is very shrewd, and he is an expert tracker.

Colter helps a man find his missing nineteen-year-old daughter, only to discover that the kidnapper has now taken someone else.


What I liked about The Never Game

Colter is clever, clear-headed, interesting, and honest. His survivalist father homeschooled Colter and his siblings (Yahoo!) and taught them how to survive in dangerous situations. As Colter searches for the kidnapped victims, he uncovers clues that the villain is using his victims as pawns in a video game. I found that fascinating. Colter also has a very Sherlock Holmesesque approach to reading clues which I enjoyed.


Issues I had with the book

There’s a police chief who arrives late to a hostage situation and insists on entering the hostage’s home with a show of force, possibly risking the man’s life. I don’t like it when writers create a power-hungry, idiot superior just to create conflict. These incompetent characters are usually top law enforcement officials, like Police Chief Dwayne Robinson in the first Die Hard movie. I prefer all the characters to be intelligent, professional, and competent like U.S. Marshall Samuel Gerard in the movie The Fugitive.

Poster of Justin Hartley as Colton Shaw in Tracker

I wanted more (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing)

There’s an underlying mystery about Colter’s father’s murder, which isn’t resolved, and which will probably be the common thread throughout the series. I’ve already bought the next book and am looking forward to listening to it.

And they’re making The Never Game into a television series called Tracker starring Justin Hartley, which will air right after the Super Bowl. I hope the show does the book justice.


How has this affected my writing

In my novel, The Runner – Book Three of The Devil Particle Series, K9 tracking teams search for the protagonist. Deaver’s story gave me great insights into tracking, which I can use in my book. I also want to make sure all my characters are smart, clever, and competent, including the law enforcement officials.

Additionally, there are good red herrings in this story, leading Colter to plausible, but wrong, conclusions. I will use Deaver’s techniques to craft clever red herrings in the next Leo Townsend Mystery/Suspense/Thriller.


The Never Game gets 👍🏻 👍🏻 👍🏻 👍🏻 for a clever plot and lots of great action scenes.


Cover of The Silent Patient

Next month’s Writer’s Book Club


For February’s Writer’s Book Club, I’ll review The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. In this bestseller, a criminal psychiatrist attempts to treat a woman who murdered her husband and then never speaks.

I bought the audio version of this book when it came out and couldn’t get into it (maybe it was the narrator?). But my daughter insists I’ll like it, so I’m giving the paperback a try.


Great books to read this February (including The Devil Particle)!


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