Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer

Hi, it’s me again – Mr. Librarian. Cheryl is letting me tell you about another book I read, but first I guess I should tell you a few things about me:

  1. I’m married to arguably the world’s coolest librarian;
  2. I’m a huge dork;
  3. I generally like reading biographies, occasionally with sci-fi, mysteries, and Cheryl’s recommendations mixed in;
  4. I really like following the news and politics;
  5. I’m a huge dork (I feel the need to mention this twice, because according to Cheryl I may be the world’s biggest dork – and I guess talking about it makes me even dorkier);
  6. And, I really like Joe Biden.

Okay, so that’s out of the way.

The other night I was looking for a book to read. Let me set the scene:

I’d just finished one that Cheryl dared me to read.  It was, and remember that I’m married to a librarian and I can’t help but be curious about the books she talks about all the time, an amazing read.  Really, my wife has the best taste in books and no, she didn’t tell me to write that. <Side note: yes she did.>  But really, it was good – and not one that I would have picked for myself (I’m not embarrassed to admit it was a romance novel and a super sexy one at that).  So I had just finished an excellent read and needed another.   

Next up on the list?  The one that I had on hold at the library was dry non-fiction and it lacked an engaging writing style.  Pass. Alas, what was I to do?  I consulted my Goodreads list and I thought about reading Barack Obama’s memoir A Promised Land (see #2 and #4 above), but the waiting list was about as long as a CVS receipt.

All of a sudden, I saw it… my next read… one I’d been meaning to read for awhile.

Hope Never Dies (An Obama Biden Mystery) by Andrew Shaffer. I mean, how could one not get excited about a murder mystery solved by the dynamic duo of Barack Obama and Joe Biden?  You cannot find a more intriguing plot. (Is it cheesy and campy?  Serious and boring? Inquiring minds – mine especially – needed to know!)  I would often see this book at the bookstore and always say to myself, “Self, this looks like a fun book, you should read it.” And then I wouldn’t.  Then I’d see the book again and the cycle would repeat itself. Well, this vicious cycle has ended!  And let me say, this book had me hooked from beginning to end.

Set in 2018, Joe Biden narrates in a noir mystery fashion. Joe’s a bit disgruntled. He’s back in Delaware and for all of the talk about him and Barack being best buds (I still love those memes), he hasn’t heard from 44 since they left office. He’s a bit lost and alone, even with trusty Champ always by his side. All of that changes one night when a certain former president shows up in his backyard with news that an Amtrak conductor has been found dead on the tracks, seemingly hit by a train.  This is concerning to Joe’s best bud because in the victim’s pocket was a map with directions to Biden’s house. <Side note: It wasn’t a stormy night, but I can 100% imagine the cliche here.>

Joe desperately wants to know what happened to the conductor, a longtime friend from his Senate days when he was known as Amtrak Joe. So he, Barack, and Steve (of the Secret Service ex-presidential detail persuasion) start looking into the particularly odd death. Through tracking down leads, some light breaking and entering, a high speed chase, and a bit more they uncover the truth and rekindle their bromance.

So it goes without saying – but I’ll say it anyways – if you’re reading a book about a former President and his Vice President driving around Delaware in a muscle car kicking a** and taking names, solving crimes, and having ice cream, you’ve signed up for the kitsch train (not to be mistaken with the Northeast Regional that goes through the Joseph R. Biden Railroad Station – see #2). And this book is just on the right side of corny and cheesy (also mentioned above – I think I did well setting the scene, right?), so hop on board and embrace your inner dork. <Side note: Have I made too many train puns? Answer: NO.>

However, while the mystery moves the story along, this is really a tale of friendship lost (maybe missing is more accurate) and found. Whether the nature of their personalities is accurate or not, Shaffer certainly creates vivid personality sketches of each man. Biden is restless, he wonders if he should have run in 2016 and is confident that he could have won. He’s focused on still wanting to serve, because that’s what he does. At the same time, he embraces his Joe-ness – the aviators, muscle car, ice cream, raw gut and emotion, etc. On the other hand, Obama is all cool, cerebral, and aloof – the picture we kind of got from White House insiders over the years. Can Joe and Barack rekindle their friendship/bromance? Will they open their own PI firm? (Delaware is known to be a great place for articles of incorporation.)

At the end of the day this book is a love song to the memories of the Obama-Biden administration. It’s catnip for liberals or anyone with a strong sense of kitsch. It’s interesting to read now that we now have President Joe Biden, instead of Joe Biden, PI. The only thing I wish is that the audiobook, which I haven’t listened to, was narrated by Biden himself (Sadly, it is not.) Nonetheless, I’m on board and excited to read Hope Rides Again!

Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer, published 2018

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