Dynamic duo of Obama and Biden ride again in detective series
Andrew Shaffer’s ‘Hope Never Dies’ is a breezy partisan romp featuring the chill former president and his fiery vice-president playing amateur sleuths in order to find personal justice
Missing the good old days of Barack Obama and Joe Biden? The best buddies are back together again, on the case instead of in the White House, and solving mysteries.
Nope, we’re not kidding.
The first novel in a new “Obama Biden Mystery” series, Andrew Shaffer’s “Hope Never Dies,” is a breezy partisan romp featuring the chill former president and his fiery vice-president playing amateur detectives in order to find some personal justice.
The audacity of “Hope” is that it goes all in on pulpy, far-fetched absurdity while also trying to find nuance in political characters who are figuring out their private lives after running the country for eight years.
Set some months after the 2016 election, the book starts by playing into public perceptions of its main players.
“Amtrak Joe” spent decades travelling via train from Delaware to DC when he was in Congress, so when his favourite railroad conductor dies under shady circumstances, Biden takes it upon himself to find out the truth. The situation comes at a complicated point for Joe, who’s wrestling with mortality, how to still best serve the country, and why Barack can’t be bothered to call.
With an entrance straight out of a James Bond film, Barack shows up to give Joe some secret information on the conductor’s mysterious death – ruled a suicide by authorities – that makes the ex-VP wonder if foul play might have been involved.
The twosome, with Secret Service agent Steve in tow, head off on a twisty adventure through the mean streets of Wilmington, Delaware, encountering greasy diners, biker bars, dangerous life-insurance investigators, an ambitious and dogged cop tired of their shenanigans (she’s a Republican, naturally), and one awkward night in a cheap, rat-infested hotel room.
Shaffer takes his pair’s personalities and adds levels for dramatic and comedic effect. Joe questions his own hot-headed, shoot-from-the-hip nature, especially when age gets in the way of taking action. And when the usually “cold as cucumber lotion” Barack doubts whether they can get the job done when it counts, Joe reminds him of his own uplifting words on the campaign trail.
Since Biden is the book’s narrator, it has a definite Democratic bent. Potshots are fired at Fox News, Sarah Palin and John Boehner’s tan; Barack and Joe bemoan the current administration dismantling “everything we’d built”, and both are afraid of getting on Michelle Obama’s bad side.
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In a few spots that will warm the hearts of at least half of Americans, Joe ponders running in 2020 as he regrets not doing so in 2016. “I could have beat that short-fingered clown in the general, Barack,” he says, though President Donald Trump’s name never comes up in “Hope Never Dies.”
While Obama and Biden’s real-life bromantic relationship did spawn a bunch of humorous memes, this fun whodunit is total fiction. Still, it’s easy to imagine that if these fist-bumping brothers were ever to become a modern Sherlock and Watson, the world might be a better, more interesting place.