“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.
Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.
Not since Misery has King played with the notion of a reader whose obsession with a writer gets dangerous. Finders Keepers is spectacular, heart-pounding suspense, but it is also King writing about how literature shapes a life—for good, for bad, forever.
What I Didn’t Like:
So often we see “middle-story syndrome:” the second story in a trilogy almost always suffers the slings and arrows of outraged fans, with the exception of the common twist-ending that is a set up for the final story. We saw it with the film The Empire Strikes Back (George Lucas) and novels such as The Girl Who Played with Fire (Stieg Larssen) and The Two Towers (J.R.R. Tolkien). In my opinion this novel suffers the same syndrome.
Readers familiar with the previous novel, Mr. Mercedes, may be disappointed to know that Hodges’s role in this novel is greatly diminished when compared to the first installment. Why call a series the Bill Hodges trilogy if the character Bill Hodges features little in the tale? It is almost possible to have the story without him.
Now let’s talk about one of my most important measures of any story: the villain. Morris Bellamy is a literary wannabe and lackluster thief and murderer. He certainly isn’t a very memorable antagonist, especially compared to the titular Mr. Mercedes in the previous novel, Brady Hartsfield. One can almost sense King’s frustration with entitled fans as they read Bellamy’s chapters (I suppose I am a case-in-point). Bellamy chapters read like an indictment against literary critics and other naysayers, which might put a humorous edge to them if Bellamy was not so heinous.
King would be hard-pressed to top everyone’s favorite psychotic literary fan, Annie Wilkes (from King’s 1987 novel Misery), but there were moments when I was just bored with Bellamy. I would liken him to a cross between Holden Caulfield from the J.D. Salinger novel, The Catcher in the Rye, and Alex from Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. This is perhaps ironic since the author Bellamy murders, is supposedly an amalgamation of different real life authors which includes Salinger. Obsession is a powerful motive, though, and Bellamy does succeed admirably in this endeavor. It would have been difficult to write any other type of villain given the particulars of the plot, so there should be some leeway there.
What I Liked:
King reminds us of relevant content from the first book as needed, but the finer points in this novel don’t rely on any obscure details from Mr. Mercedes.
We get to see many of our favorite characters from Mr. Mercedes, their stories updated, since Finders Keepers takes place a few years after the previous novel.
Differing points of view: I love it! I relish novels whose stories are told through several different characters’ viewpoints, especially when one of those viewpoints is the antagonist’s – even if he was forgettable. King develops his cast carefully and methodically using this method, and whether he is recalling a character’s past or describing his or her current thoughts, readers can certainly appreciate the flow of the story as it advances.
I remember thinking Mr. Mercedes didn’t seem to have much of a supernatural element to it. Finders Keepers isn’t quite paranormal, either, but there are a few instances that cause that familiar tingle of electricity across your skin: the tiny hairs on your body rise and goose bumps skitter up your arms. I found that reassuring from an author most known for his supernatural writing.
Finally, the thing about King’s novels is, while indisputably very well-written, the development is slower than the average novel. King’s novels are very much character-driven, and as such most action found within his novels are sparse. It is an uphill climb for at least the first half of any of his books, but once you crest the top, it becomes a real page-turner. King novel climaxes pack all the punch of a Michael Bay action film (except King’s novels are rich and interesting), and then you cringe in expectancy of the twist-ending. A couple chapters and the ending certainly set up the conclusion to the trilogy, currently (and perhaps forebodingly) entitled End of Watch, hopefully coming in 2016. I anxiously await it!