- Author: Stephen King
- Publisher: Scribner
- Release Date: June 2, 2015
- Pages: 434
Stephen King, the master of macabre. King is scary, the fact that his books have sold more than 350 million copies says enough, people like to be scared, and it is Stephen King who scares them. But after a car accident in 1999 that almost killed him, King has significantly deviated from his work of horror and jumped into other genres, but in my opinion, he hasn’t produced a decent work of horror since. (I feel that Doctor Sleep and Revival (read our review here) counts as good attempts, not good executions.)
Warning: Spoilers for Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Book #1) to follow.
King wanted to write a crime thriller trilogy, and since he is Stephen King, he wrote it. I didn’t think he could pull it off. But he did, sort of.
Finders Keepers is the second book in King’s Bill Hodges trilogy. The story about a retired police officer turned private investigator.
The first book, Mr. Mercedes, saw Bill deal with a serial killer named Brady Hartsfield. He ran over dozens of people at a job fair and was caught by Bill and his sidekicks before he could blow up an auditorium filled with kids. Mr. Mercedes was a good attempt, and I enjoyed it.
After the incident at the auditorium, Bill has opened a detective agency called, “Finders Keepers” with Holly (the tech-loving bad-ass from the first book) as his assistant.
The story begins and unfolds over 36 years.
An author -John Rothstein- is murdered and some of his most prized possession, his money and lots of notebooks are stolen; which are said to contain some of his unpublished work, including two novels.
Morris Bellamy was part of the group of teens who killed John Rothstein. He wanted the notebooks, but is forced to bury them, and suddenly he is sent to prison for rape, one that he did under the influence of alcohol. And he is sentenced to life prison.
Peter Saubers’ family is going through a tough time. His father was injured in the City Massacre (in Mr. Mercedes) during the job fair and is unable to work and his mother’s earning is not enough to keep them afloat.
One day, Peter finds the buried box (the one Morris buried) and helps his family.
After being granted parole, Morris is released from prison, and he attempts to find the notebooks, but he is furious to find that the trunk he buried is empty.
A tale of obsession and a heck lot of convincing everyone ensues.
The prologue was fantastic; it started with murder. And the scene was so thoroughly well written. I was hooked. Then it happened…
In order to establish the character of Morris, King had to present us with his story, his obsession with the notebooks and to do that he had to create a character whose obsession believable, but he would still be the villain.
King had to sacrifice the character of Bill Hodges to lay the groundwork of the two new characters who are the protagonist (Peter) and antagonists (Morris) to each other. The problem is that King tries too hard to concrete Morris’s character by taking snippets from Misery and The Shawshank Redemption.
If Misery and The Shawshank married and had a child, Finders Keepers would be that child. Of course, if the kid had been dropped on his head as a child. Which -in the case of King’s stories- can happen.
As progress through the story, the writing suffers for a brief time because King tries to slide exposition into casual conversations and it makes them awkward. For example – “I’m leaving the airport now. I just repo’d his place. Which was not his plane, he made the down payment with a rubber check. Holly will call Zane Aviation and give them all the details. She loves that part of the job.”
In a panic situation, you are describing what your secretary likes. Great. He could have altered the exposition to fit better into the story, but it comes as a very weird and uncomfortable element.
Stephen King has written some of the most memorable (which means terrifying) characters in the history of cinema and literature. But one habit that has always been stuck with him is, he creates a good, bad guy.
You may remember Paul Sheldon because of the torment he suffocated, but you definitely remember Annie Wilkes because she was crazy.
The case was the same with The Dark Half, The Shining, Salem’s Lot, IT and so on. The bad guy was almost always glorified; he was the attraction to King’s circus. This habit becomes a problem in Finders Keepers.
The protagonist of a trilogy has to be likable. Someone we share our adventure with; Bill Hodges is none of that. His absence in the majority of the novel ditches him to the sidewalk while the story progresses without him. He jumps now and then into the story to carry it forward. His introduction takes place after 120 pages. The protagonist is not Bill Hodges here, but Pete Saubers and King goes to great length to justify him and I liked Pete more than Bill Hodges.
The antagonist Morris Bellamy I would say is, King’s most fascinating villain in recent time. He has the charisma of Annie Wilkes, but he lacks the crazy cuckoo personality.
Should you read Finders Keepers?
Yes and no. Do you know about the fillers? Unnecessary exposition added to lengthen anything?
Finders Keepers is a filler. It doesn’t justify its presence in being the part of a trilogy. King desperately wanted to bring Brady back, but it would have been abrupt just after he went into a coma by the end of the first book.
Finders Keepers is not a bad novel. The writing is good for the majority of the book, and the antagonist is a fascinating villain, but I would have liked it if it was a long stand alone novel. There is a lot of character development work that could have gone into it.
At the end of the day, Finders Keepers commits nothing to the Bill Hodges Trilogy except add an unnecessary chapter. A chapter I enjoyed none the less.