Vice President Joe Biden is fresh out of the Obama White House and feeling adrift when his favorite railroad conductor dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues. To unravel the mystery, "Uncle Joe" re-teams with the only man he's ever fully trusted: the 44th president of the United States. Together they'll plumb the darkest corners of Delaware, traveling from cheap motels to biker bars and beyond, as they uncover the sinister forces advancing America's opioid epidemic.
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.'