In The God Game, when Queen’s Park aide Peter Hansen hires Dan Sharp to find his missing husband, the private investigator unwittingly becomes embroiled in Toronto politics. Did Tony really go on the run to escape gambling debts, or is his disappearance somehow linked to Peter’s political aspirations and the liability of having a gambling addict as a spouse? Is there a link between Dan’s case and the apparent suicide of a Queen’s Park MPP who happens to be the opposition critic for Peter’s boss? As Dan digs deeper into Peter and Tony’s lives, he runs into an old friend and former activist who tells Dan about political fixers, who manipulate events for desired political outcomes, and Dan realizes how complex and corrupt the game of politics actually is.
It’s a good, solid mystery, and a timely one. In Jeffrey Round’s author’s note, he talks about how he wrote the book at the height of the Ontario power plant scandal and the beginnings of the Rob Ford crack-smoking video scandal, and he initially worried that readers would dismiss his story as unrealistic. After all, how much corruption can actually exist in Canada? Unfortunately, his story turns out to be all too believable, and while it’s still more a missing persons mystery than a political thriller (Dan gets a glimpse of but never actually dives too deeply into the political machinery), there’s a lot about the political maneuvering in the story that one can imagine being in the headlines.
While the mystery was good, it was the characters and their personal lives that I loved the most about this book. The subplot involves Dan and his police officer fiance Nick planning their wedding, and in fact one of the appeals of Peter’s case is that his retainer would pay for Nick’s preferred caterer. I loved the wedding planning scenes and how their friends got involved in helping out with the details. I also loved how their relationship develops in this book. As they plan for their wedding, Nick’s struggling to deal with homophobia at work, and Dan’s a bit too wrapped up in the case to provide the support Nick needs. Nick’s also unhappy about the unnecessary risks Dan takes for his work, and the tension comes to a head when Dan and Nick’s respective jobs put them at odds with each other. I really liked how that subplot played out, and often felt more invested in their relationship than in the actual mystery.
The God Game is the second Dan Sharp book I’ve read (apart from Lake on the Mountain), and while I personally preferred the more personal and intimate mystery of Lake on the Mountain, The God Game is an entertaining read, and I look forward to reading more in the series.
Thank you to Dundurn for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.