Shaffer could have jumped on this opportunity to parody Biden and Obama, but, instead, he presents them as real people, pretty much the way we imagine them to be (allowing, of course, for literary license); and the mystery is genuinely suspenseful and satisfying, not merely a framework for a bunch of silliness. It should be noted, too, that the relationship between Biden and Obama is carefully and skillfully developed and has moments of genuine emotion. An ambitious and completely successful novel.
For some readers, that cover illustration alone—and the fantasy it conjures up—will be worth the price of this book. As is fitting, Biden is the narrator: He’s a rattling Dr. Watson to Obama’s more inscrutable Holmes. Shaffer does his best to generate Biden-isms aplenty to lend a smidgen of authenticity to Uncle Joe’s voice ... Some aspects of this novel strain too hard for zaniness. (It’s bromance overkill, for instance, when Barack and Joe are forced to share a double bed in a fleabag motel while they hide out from the bad guys and the Secret Service.) As is often the case with screwball comedy, the slighter episodes are the funniest ... I did laugh, but if you didn’t, perhaps this romp, sweetly goofy as it is, isn’t for you. Word is that Hope Never Dies is just the first of a projected series of Obama-Biden mysteries. That may be a bit too much of this bromance even for those who think that the last administration was the stuff that dreams are made of.
I am not entirely sure how to interpret Andrew Shaffer’s deeply weird and very funny satirical novel Hope Never Dies, but it works well as a send-up of the Obama infatuation ... The story is told in the first person by Joe, and it has to be said that he sounds a lot like the former veep: 'I placed a hand on her shoulder. "This has to be a shock." ' The book’s running gag is how reverentially inferior Joe feels in comparison with Barack. 'You’re allowed to have other friends,' Joe tells his old boss at the end of the story. 'As long as I’m your best friend.'
I don’t want to be hard on Shaffer, nor judge his work too politically. He’s an artist of solid ability, whose talents in characterization and narrative are obvious from this novel. But I can’t help but wonder, What was the point of this volume? ... The reality is that no scene inside the book quite equals the Jeremy Enecio’s art on the cover. There’s a moment where Obama and Biden team fight a biker gang, however, and that comes close. Obama finished his second term. I finished this book. Neither one of us got quite what we expected.
Shaffer takes the edge off his last satire (The Day of the Donald, 2016)—the nicest touch here is the failure of a single character to mention the name of Obama’s successor—and conservatives are as unlikely to be offended by the unlikely sleuths as liberals are to be soothed or cheered. The mystery is wafer-thin and the solution unsatisfying, but the cool, cerebral ex-POTUS is a reasonable stand-in for Sherlock Holmes, and his ex-VPOTUS, by turns appealingly modest and laughably self-satisfied, is in some ways a better Watson than the good doctor himself.