A Caller’s Game by J. D. Barker – Book Review

Caller’s Game book cover

Jordan Briggs, a radio host with a penchant for stirring controversy, receives a live call from Bernie, a caller armed with a significant amount of exploitable explosive material. However, Bernie doesn’t like to decide alone what things to blow up. Jordan’s show becomes an explosive success. Will J. D. Barker’s book, “A Caller’s Game” achieve the same success?

If you’ve read Barker’s “Four Monkey Killer” series, you’ll immediately notice that “A Caller’s Game” lacks the complexity and often overly convoluted plot structure. “A Caller’s Game” is on the opposite end, a straightforward thriller mostly set in a single location.

If you’ve seen the movie “Die Hard,” you can expect a similar experience: a skyscraper, terrorists, a bomb, and a cop perfectly positioned to take on the jerk Bernie. Plus, live broadcasting on the radio. Minus Christmas.

“A Caller’s Game” would work well as an action film, except everyone would compare it to “Die Hard,” and it would quickly fade away.

Barker’s book is perfectly bland. The male protagonist, Cole Hundley, is woodenly simple, a typical good guy. Jordan doesn’t get much more depth. Although Barker provides sharp insights at the beginning, portraying Jordan as a sharp-minded, confident media personality, nevertheless, the woman finds it very difficult to make herself likable.

So the most nuanced character becomes Bernie, who is, from the start, a sinister villain. So, when it later surfaces that Bernie indeed has some issues with the SiriusXM radio station, it feels like overkill. Barker goes way overboard with Bernie, using a cannon to kill a fly.

However, “A Caller’s Game” works as a thriller. It might feel predictable, suggesting it’s designed for easy entertainment. But if you stick with J. D. Barker’s book for a while, you’ll suddenly find yourself worrying and getting excited about so many things at once that it becomes challenging to put down. Will it explode or not? Is Jordan a scoundrel? Is her husband a scoundrel? Will he shoot? Will he not? Will they get out? Will they get in? Will they climb up? Will the girl be safe? What did Cole do to his girlfriend, little sweet cutie pie Gracie, that her family has been constantly tormenting him since? Did he give her a huge kick in the butt? Will the whole damn building collaps? And so on.

In the afterword of “A Caller’s Game” J. D. Barker boasts about not bothering with hindrances like creating an outline while writing. While this approach may streamline writing, it could also help filter out contradictions for an author. For instance, if you’re planning to enter a building to potentially blow it up, why wouldn’t you think ahead about how to exit AFTERWARD?

Or, if you’re not even inside, HOW would you brutally murder your BEST friends who previously sheltered you during your worst times, comforted your soul, and provided you with all earthly pleasures? Then they hacked, bombed, and killed for your sake. Etc.

Doesn’t matter!

What matters, and that’s the point, is that you might discover: deep down in the soul of every evil, soulless, depraved, bloodthirsty terrorist beast, a tiny flame of kindness might flicker.

6.9/10 (69%)

A Caller’s Game by J. D. Barker
424 pages, Paperback
Published February 21, 2021 by Hampton Creek Press

Other book(s) by the author:
J. D. Barker: The Fifth to Die by J. D. Barker

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