“The fictional Andrea Stone is real to this man in a way Pete’s sister is not.”
Stephen King has always enjoyed writing about writers, with perhaps his most famous book on the theme, Misery (1978), exploring the dangerous line between a readers love and obsession of a literary hero. This is a spine-chilling concept, as it is relatable to every reader who has fallen in love with an author, devouring their work and eagerly awaiting the next instalment. In Finders Keepers, released June 2nd 2015, King revisits this dangerous obsession. The story follows the slightly psychopathic Morris Bellamy, who both loves and hates writer John Rothstein, creator of the fictional Jimmy Gold trilogy. Furious with Rothstein for making his beloved Jimmy a sell-out, before retreating into a self-imposed exile, Bellamy does the one logical thing in his mind – murders Rothstein, stealing years’ worth of unpublished writing. However, before getting the chance to read this gold-mine, Bellamy is sent to prison for a different (but equally horrifying) crime – for life. The books remain hidden for 40 years before teenager Peter Saubers discovers them – and the $20,000 stolen along with the books – and also falls in love with the writing of Rothstein. Using the money to help his family out of a tough financial time (incidentally caused by the events that occurred in the previous book, Mr Mercedes), he keeps the books, up until one Morris Bellamy is released on parole. It’s left to ex-police detective Bill Hodges (and co.), first introduced in Mr Mercedes, to protect Saubers from Bellamy’s vengeful obsession.
Despite the idea for the novel being interestingly crafted, I was somewhat disappointed with King’s most recent foray into the crime genre. While the idea for the plot is interesting and engaging, the pace of the novel is as slow as a snail on a leisurely crawl, restricting the novel from reaching its full potential and becoming tedious and a little predictable. Indeed, it feels as though the first part of the novel is mere background information, with the real story not beginning until about halfway through, and while it is all relevant and fairly interesting in relation to the plot, it may have made for a more engaging read if it were more concise. As a result, what could have been constant suspense becomes a little dull. However, in spite of the slow pace for the majority of the novel, the final 50 pages are fast and action-filled, making the finale exciting and memorable -albeit slightly predictable.
The book is most definitely not without its merits though. The characters are complex and relatable. It is arguable that to a certain extent, the reader can even sympathise with the novels deranged villain, who grew up in a cold, unloved environment and found solace in books – Rothstein’s trilogy to be specific. It is perhaps this that makes him most threatening, because the reader can understand his love for Rothstein’s writing, which makes his later actions even more chilling. The reader can also relate to the struggles of young Pete Saubers, who, while good-intentioned, finds himself making mistake after mistake, digging himself into a seemingly inescapable pit. That is what makes this book so successful, because despite the fall-backs with the sluggishness of the plot, it is impossible to give up on because a certain care for the characters develops.
Furthermore, it is undeniable that King is a writer of great talent, with the ability to chill the soul within just a few pages. This is evident in most of his classics, with The Shining and Misery being among the most psychologically unnerving novels I have ever read. Although most of Finders Keepers failed to provoke this reaction from me, the final few pages were some of the most unsettling I have read by King. Within just a few pages, I was left both disturbed and thrilled by the occurrences, only wishing that this talent had appeared earlier in the novel.
While Finders Keepers is a fairly satisfactory crime novel, it doesn’t reach the gloriously terrifying heights of King’s earlier works, which are like Royalty within the horror genre. While he has definitely proven himself as a perfectly adequate crime novelist, if I were to continue reading his new work, it would have to be with a return to horror – a genre King is certainly a master of.