Though they’ve both been put out to pasture, Barack Obama and Joe Biden team up once again to solve a murder practically in the former vice president’s backyard.
During all those years commuting between Delaware and Washington, Biden got to know every single Amtrak conductor. His favorite was Finn Donnelly, even before the stroke his wife, Darlene, suffered brought them even closer together. Now Finn is dead, inexplicably run over by a train as he lay unmoving on the tracks. When Grace Donnelly tells Biden that her father took out a $1 million insurance policy shortly before his death but the company, saying they suspect suicide, doesn’t want to pay out, Biden vows to get to the bottom of Finn’s death. True, he has no experience as a detective and scarcely any more as a logical thinker. But he does enjoy an intermittent alliance with the still-powerful Obama. Even though “there was no love lost between Barack and me,” Obama keeps turning up at Biden’s home, sharing sensitive information with him, and goading him to challenge Wilmington cops Detective Dan Capriotti, who’s unenthusiastic, and Lt. Selena Esposito, who’s downright hostile, by opening his own investigation. Together the salt-and-pepper duo, taking a leaf from the film My Fellow Americans, swap aphorisms, indulge in high-speed car chases, and occasionally do some actual detection. 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.