Stephen King’s ‘Finders Keepers’: Review

The prospect of starting a new SK novel is much akin to the relish of anticipation when a large plate of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream is placed in front of you. So, you don’t like cookie dough? OK, substitute that with your favourite forbidden delicacy. I’d self-hyped the story, so it’d better live up to my expectations.
I needn’t have worried.
I’m not going to summarise the plot – that’s available elsewhere on Amazon, Waterstones or just about any online store. Suffice it to say that the story follows on where ‘Mr Mercedes’ (a cracking read, by the way) leaves off. The premise is one that King has visited oft times before: the almost supernatural attraction that the written word offers to a reader when it is delivered from the pen of a master storyteller. Stories such as ‘Misery’, ‘Secret window, secret garden’ and ‘The dark half’ spring immediately to mind. So is this just yesterday’s literary broth reheated and served up in a different form? Well, this is the mark of a novelist’s stature; that they can revisit an idea and explore yet another of its facets while evoking different emotions and eliciting new revelations. Stephen King is such an author.
Creative writing tutors will tell you to never start your novel with a dream sequence. Many also tut-tut if you open with dialogue. King does both and gets away with it. From the opening sentence the reader is hooked by rich scene setting and compelling characters. SK’s villains can become a bit of a trope but Morris Bellamy has a way of getting under your skin and, at times, almost rooting for him as his life unfolds its peaks and troughs. There are three plots that weave themselves in and out of the storyline. The first is Bellamy’s growing obsession with John Rothstein’s writing and the thought that he has a stolen cache of his notebooks waiting for him if he ever gets out of jail before he dies. The second is the hard-luck story of Peter Saubers, another Rothstein obsessive, who accidentally discovers Bellamy’s hidden stash. The third is the continuing relationship between a trio of friends introduced in ‘Mr Mercedes,’ namely Hodges, Holly and Jerome. King uses flashbacks, differences in point of view and various tenses to bring these elements together in a final, gripping denouement. Again, SK knows the rules of writing – and how to break them convincingly.
I tried to read the novel from a writer’s perspective, but all too often, found that ten pages had sailed by with me having gotten lost in the story. I always find golden gems within King’s writing that stay with me forever. Periodically, I take them out and turn them over in my mind, extracting a new slant on human nature, philosophy or sometimes just sheer poetry. King is even able to engineer this characteristic of storytelling in Rothstein’s prose, making it quite believable that his unpublished novels and short stories would drive both Saubers and Bellamy to almost similar levels of devotion and worship. For example, here’s one phrase quoted from one of Rothstein’s books: ” … The empty boxcar of this late freight bore him on through rural oblivion toward Kansas City and the sleeping country beyond, the full belly of America resting beneath its customary comforter of night …” It’s fictional Rothstein speaking through his protagonist, Jimmy Gold. But it has King’s hallmark stamped all over it.
How does King manage to build suspense and accelerate the pace without falling into cliche and repeating past writing devices? It beats me, but he seems able to create new ways of achieving this on a whim. For example, ” …he stepped in with legs he could barely feel. His apprehension was replaced by a glassy sheet of terror …” Mmmm! Cookie dough. It strikes me that King could take the telephone directory and create a story so gripping you couldn’t put it down.
‘Finders Keepers’ is a suspense story without any hints of the paranormal. However, the tale ends with a supernatural epilogue/next-story-prologue that tantalises us with the possibility that, while Mr Mercedes may be a drooling vegetable, he’s far from finished.
Whether you’re knew to Stephen King and wondering what the fuss is all about, or one of his ‘constant readers’, this book will reassure you that he is still at the top of his game.

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