Finders Keepers, Stephen King’s second installment in a promised potboiler trilogy he began last year with Mr. Mercedes, reunites readers with retired police detective William “Bill” Hodges, tightly wound assistant Holly Gibney and strapping sidekick Jerome Robinson.
With the horror of Mercedes hanging in the background — King finds a neat way to incorporate that novel’s harrowing hit-and-run setpiece without making it seem like pure recycling — the author introduces a whole new horror into his characters’ world: Morris Bellamy, a psychotic fan who, a la Misery’s infamous Annie Wilkes, sets his sights on a famous, reclusive author’s unpublished work and intends to own it, by any means necessary.
The 434-page Keepers also focuses on the Saubers family, affected by the traumatic events of Mercedes to a degree, but soon wrestling with an altogether more challenging set of circumstances. The plot takes a while to kick into gear, but once events are set in motion, King orchestrates the mayhem with panache.
King holds back Hodges and his friends early on, introducing them casually, and even going so far as to almost sideline them during the denouement — Keepers often seems like a sequel where the main characters are incidental — and putting the suspenseful narrative in the hands of scrappy Pete Saubers and the obsessive Bellamy.
Keepers crackles in its last 50 pages or so, but too much of what precedes the gruesome climax feels like King riffing on his greatest hits. Apart from memories of Misery, King also spends a stretch writing about prison (Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption) and offers plenty of paragraphs about the power of writing and the hold authors exert on young, malleable minds (his nonfiction tome On Writing).
As Keepers draws to a close, King pivots from the real to the surreal, setting up the final chapter of this trilogy as a supernatural clash between good and evil. After two wobbly outings, perhaps the third adventure with Hodges and the gang will be truly haunting.
— Preston Jones
by Stephen King
Audiobook: Simon & Schuster Audio, $39.99; read by actor Will Patton, a Stephen King regular