Thursday, November 3, 2016

Review of "Finders Keepers" by Stephen King

"Finders Keepers" is the second book in a trilogy that begins with "Mr. Mercedes." The trilogy features detective Bill Hodges and his makeshift (but capable) group of amateur helpers. In "Mr. Mercedes" the team assists in the capture of psychopath Brady Hartfield, who briefly shows up in this book as well.

"Finders Keepers" is a long book with a lot happening so I'll just summarize the main points.

The story begins in 1978. Morris Bellamy - a vicious young criminal - breaks into the home of famous, reclusive author John Rothstein. Morris is obsessed with Jimmy Gold, the protagonist in Rothstein's "Runner" trilogy. In the first couple of "Runner" books Jimmy is a rebellious, young man that Morris identifies with. In the third book, however, Jimmy 'sells out' by having a family and working in advertising. This infuriates Morris and compels him to confront the author.

Morris ends up killling Rothstein and raiding his safe for money and a huge stack of moleskin notebooks that contain Rothstein's unpublished writings - including two more "Runner" books. Morris buries his stash just before he's sentenced to life imprisonment for another crime.

Jump ahead to 2010. The economy is bad and thirteen-year-old Pete Saubers is distressed because his parents are constantly fighting over money. Pete comes upon Morris's buried treasure and anonymously starts sending the cash to his parents, $500 a month. The money helps the family get back on its feet. Pete also becomes obsessed with the writings in Rothstein's notebooks, especially the last two "Runner" books.

By 2014 the money from the buried treasure is gone and the Saubers can't afford to send Pete's little sister, Tina, to the private school of her dreams. Thus Pete cooks up a scheme to sell some of Rothstein's notebooks. He contacts a rare book dealer named Andrew, who happens to be Morris Bellany's former acquaintance. This turns out to be a bad idea.

Also in 2014, Morris finally gets out of prison on parole and tries to retrieve his buried treasure. When he discovers it's gone, Morris - who's been obsessing about reading the Rothstein notebooks for over 35 years - goes nuts. A violent man with no conscience, Morris will do anything to get 'his" notebooks back.

Enter Bill Hodges and his team, which includes African-American computer whiz Jerome Robinson (currently a student at Harvard) and eccentric Holly Gibney (a gifted amateur sleuth who has Asperger's syndrome). Through Jerome's little sister Barbara, who's friends with Tina Saubers, the team learns that Pete is in some kind of trouble. Hodges et al. - being sympathetic, do-gooders - decide to try to help Pete. The inevitable confluence of Pete, Morris, and Andrew (the book seller) - plus the detective team - lead to a series of events that are dramatic, violent, creepy, and horrific.

"Mr. Mercedes" is a mystery/thriller and "Finders Keepers" (more or less) follows along those lines as well."Finders Keepers", however, has a little more of the horror vibe that King is famous for. The character Morris Bellamy is reminiscent of the crazy book lover in "Misery" and his greedy book dealer pal Andrew is a devilishly dislikable guy.

For a detective novel, Bill Hodges and his compadres show up late in the story and play only a minor role in resolving the situation. The story also goes a bit long detailing Morris's boyhood, his relationship with his controlling mother, his feelings about Rothstein's writing, what happens to him in prison, and so on. There's also a lot of exposition about Pete - his concerns about his mom and dad, his reactions to Rothstein's journals, his worries about his sister, etc. All this made the book seem rather lengthy, but I was never bored.

All in all, the story is engaging and Morris and Pete are compelling characters. I know there are a wide range of opinions about this book, but I'd recommend it as entertaining and worth reading.   

Rating: 4 stars

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