Finders Keepers

By Stephen King

Stephen King is rightly one of the bestselling genre writers of all time as he is not only prolific, but also the writer of some classics. Like many fans of horror, I read his back catalogue as a teenager and read terrific book after terrific book. Eventually I hit King fatigue, not only were some patterns appearing in the books, but in the late 80s they started to really become tomes. Recently, King has appeared to produce the shorter and punchier novels that made me interested in him in the first place and not all of them horror. Finders Keepers is a crime thriller, and the only horror is found in the madness of men. 

During the 1970s John Rothstein is considered one of the great American writers, but has been a recluse for decades, hiding away in his remote home and not producing new work. When his home is invaded, are the criminals after the money in the safe, or the stacks of notebooks of unpublished work that sits beside the cash? Jump forward thirty years and Rothstein is going to have an influence on Pete Saubers. This teenager’s family is going through hard times when he stumbles across a chest full of cash and old notebooks. Could this be enough to keep his family solvent? Why is the case hidden away and will anyone from the past come looking for it? 

It is important in a book to set the scene so that the reader can learn about the characters in the book and their motivations. To achieve this in Finders, King sets part one across two-time frames. One follows Pete as he finds the chest and what he does with the innards, whilst the other follows a much darker path. Here we discover Morris Bellamy, a young man obsessed with the characters that Rothstein wrote. So obsessed that he would kill. The events in the 70s lead to jail time and the inevitable release of Morris onto an unsuspecting world. 

The issue is that the start of the story is slow. As a preamble it is the type of walk you would do with a reluctant toddler who refused to walk any faster than the average snail. Yes, we do learn a lot about the characters, but too much. A lot of this character development would have worked just as well by feeding it in the main storyline as shorter flashbacks. Work that is designed to make us care for the characters, starts to make us not care about the book itself. 

Once the long introductions are made, we are finally reintroduced to Bill Hodges, the character from Mr Mercedes. He is an ex-cop who now acts as an unlicensed Private Eye, taking on jobs that are not always on the right side of the law. In this case, Pete’s sister is worried about her brother’s erratic behaviour. As well she should be, as it turns out that Pete is on the radar of a mad man who has thirty years to think about the treasures hidden in the chest that he buried. 

Once Hodges arrives the book takes on a far pacier feel and there is a tit for tat narrative as we bounce from one character to the other. The chaser and the chased. Thrown in the middle is Hodges and associates who are just trying to figure out what is going on. This section reminds me of the Prey series by John Sandford, but with the obsession with characters from literature, it certainly has that King spin. There are also tones of Cape Fear as the increasingly unhinged criminal from the past threatens not only Pete, but his entire family. 

Having not read a King novel for over a decade I am not convinced that Keepers will be the book that has me coming back before another ten years have passed. Some of the themes that King has covered for many years are still around and although the book is far shorter than some of his earlier works, it still feels overly long in places. Trapped inside this book is a pacy thriller that will leap back and forth between a frightened boy and serial mad man. If that appeals to you, I suggest that you explore some of the great books found within the Prey series first.  

Written on 16th March 2021 by .

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