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Thursday, 2 July 2015

Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Stephen King is on a roll with his Bill Hodges trilogy and this the second and middle book, following on directly from Mr Mercedes is another nail biter - I've gone through both books in a couple of weeks and to use the reviewer's cliche, I couldn't put the books down. This second volume, billed as another story about a fan obsessed with a writer claims to have shades of the author's earlier Misery, but the novel is a totally different beast to King's earlier novel. Where Misery was a tightly contained masterclass in suspense, Finders Keepers is a more sprawling work with far more threads to be tied into the whole. I loved Misery; it's one of my favourite King novels and I don't think it is helpful to compare the two novels as they are world's apart. In fact the only common factor they share is that they are both totally compelling works.

Finders Keeps is structured for the first act in two time frames - 1978 and the present day. Back in the Sensational Seventies we are introduced to petty criminal Morris Bellamy who just so happens to be a huge fan of reclusive writer, John Rothstein, who seems to be based somewhat on J. D. Salinger. Bellamy is furious at Rothstein for allowing his most famous character, Jimmy Gold (a symbol for teenage America) to sell out in the last book of his acclaimed Runner trilogy.

"Shit don't mean shit."

After the publication of the third Runner novel, Rothstein gave up public life and as far as his public knew he was no longer writing. However there have long been rumours that Rothstein is in fact writing but will not publish his work, and keeps it hidden away together with strict instructions that it be destroyed when he dies.

 So popular is the character of Jimmy Gold that his catchphrase, 'shit don't mean shit' sells millions of T-shirts.

“You created one of the greatest characters in American literature, then shit on him... A man who could do that doesn’t deserve to live,”

The above line comes from Morris Bellamy and is part of a blackly comical exchange between himself and the reclusive writer after he breaks into the writer's secluded home. Bellamy has two other men with him and after finding a considerable amount of cash, and better still a pile of notebooks containing everything Rothstein had written since retiring from publishing, Bellamy shoots the writer in the head. Afterwards he kills his two accomplaces and flees into the night....he's not interested in the money but looks forward to reading all the unpublished fiction, who knows, he figures, there may even be a new Runner novel amongst all the moleskin  notebooks he's stolen.

Morris buries the notebooks and cash in an old suitcase while he waits for the heat to die down, but unfortunately one drunken night leads to him being arrested for assualt and rape and being sentanced to life in prison. Thirty years later the suitcase is discovered by young Peter Saubers who uses the money to help his family - his dad was injured during the mercedes massacre which was the plotline of the previous book Mr Mercedes.

Of course these two story threads come together when Morris Bellamy is released from prison, still batshit crazy and looking forward to reading the stolen Rothstein notebooks. Cue the entrance of Bill Hodges, the wonderfully drawn, Holly and Jerome. The team who solved the Mr Mercedes case are back!

Finders Keeps, at 400 pages, is short by King's doorstopper standards and all the better for it - expertly plotted the book hurtles towards another thrilling conclusion. I especially liked the way we see the Mr Mercedes massacre again,-  this time from a different character's POV and after several years of avoiding Mr King I think I am firmly back in the King is the King camp. The third book (rumoured to be called The Suicide Prince or End of Watch)  will obviously feature the return of Brady Hartfield (the killer from Mr Mercedes) who appears several times in this book and seems to have developed some sort of supernatural power.

Both Mr Mercedes and Finders Keepers have been straightforward crime thrillers and I do hope King doesn't go down the supernatural route for his next novel in the series. Whatever happens....I can't wait for the third novel and pray King doesn't go down the Rothstein route and lock the manuscript away unpublished.....because shit don't mean shit until I get the next book.

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