Reviews

FINDERS KEEPERS (Bill Hodges Trilogy #2), by Stephen King

Not unlike what happened with the previous book in this series, Mr. Mercedes, I found myself thinking that Stephen King’s skills work better when applied to horror and supernatural themes, because this foray into crime/thriller territory seems to hinder a little his artistic flair, even though Finders Keepers still remains a good, quite enjoyable story. The ending of the novel made me wonder if the author did not entertain some thoughts along those same lines, because in the final portion of the story he introduces some supernatural elements that so far were absent from the overall narrative. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

John Rothstein is a once-famous author who chose to stop publishing his works a long time ago, although he has not stopped writing, pouring his thoughts and ideas into a series of notebooks he keeps sealed in a safe. Morris Bellamy is a young man obsessed with Rothstein’s works, and in particular with the protagonist of the novels – Jimmy Gold – whose character arc down the road displeased him immensely. Being the kind of fan who cannot take ‘no’ for an answer (in a sort of mirror image of Annie Wilkes from Misery), Bellamy breaks into Rothstein’s house, kills him and steals the author’s notebooks from the safe, together with a sizable amount of cash: the notebooks contain many unpublished short stories, and the final Jimmy Gold novel – a real treasure trove for the obsessed young man, who proceeds to store his precious findings into a trunk he hides near his house, intending to read them at his leisure. Unfortunately, a previous crime he committed catches up with him, so he’s arrested and jailed for a few decades – his thoughts never far from the cherished catch he intends to retrieve once he will regain his freedom.

Some 30 years later, teenage Peter Saubers comes to live in what used to be Morris’ house: the boy’s family suffers from financial hardships because his father was grievously wounded in the job fair attack described in Mr. Mercedes: when he finds a half-buried trunk containing a great number of notebooks and several thousand dollars, Peter decides to send the money to his parents in small installments, as if from an unknown benefactor, and reading the notebooks he discovers both Rothstein’s works and his own love of books and literature, which will shape his future life.  Peter’s troubles start when Bellamy is finally released from prison, and goes to unearth his buried treasure, only to find the trunk empty…

Bill Hodges, Holly and Jerome come into this picture much later, when young Peter finds himself facing Bellamy’s threats and dealing with something much greater and far more dangerous than he can handle: in this second volume of the trilogy, the three of them are more like side characters, while the focus remains mostly of Morris and Peter – and, of course, on books and stories and the love of reading. This was the theme that most appealed to me, unsurprisingly, and in the end I found myself caring less for Hodges & Co.’s investigations and reconstruction of the events than I did for what I perceived as the core story, i.e. the Journey of the Lost Notebooks 🙂

What’s fascinating here is the different approach to literature shown by Morris and Peter, who stand at the opposite ends of the spectrum: the former is a vicious, no good individual whose encounter with Rothstein’s works does not engender a moral uplifting but rather consolidates his outlook on life, to the point that he feels a sort of ownership toward the character, and when Jimmy Gold’s development does not meet his criteria, his rage toward Rothstein knows no bounds. Even though taken to narrative extremes by King, this is the kind of attitude shown by less-balanced readers when writers don’t move their stories toward the fans’ hoped-for direction, or when books don’t come out at an acceptable speed.  On the other hand, Peter is the incarnation of us book lovers, a person who enjoys getting lost in stories, being enchanted by the author’s voice and style, someone who finds in books the means of opening one’s mind, or to seek solace from life’s troubles.

While there are no trademark horror elements in Finders Keepers, it’s still possible to feel dread because the story moves at a slow but unrelenting pace toward the inevitable showdown between Peter and Morris, the first exhibiting all the characteristics of youthful wounded innocence so dear to King’s narrative, and the second portraying the kind of evil that needs no supernatural roots to prove chillingly scary.  They are indeed the zenith and nadir of the story, leaving little room for Hodges and partners who, in this installment, don’t seem to have changed much from their appearance in Mr. Mercedes: of course, Hodges is now living a healthier kind of life, thanks to the scare brought on by his heart attack; and Holly is moving toward a greater independence and self-assurance, as she deals with her psychological problems; and Jerome is less boyish and more mature – but they don’t get enough page space to truly show great changes. In this respect, they sort of suffer from a “middle book syndrome” that will hopefully be overcome in the final volume of the trilogy.

And about this, a few hints in the course of the book, and the last chapter, seem to point toward a return to a horror/supernatural element for the third volume, given the reappearance of Brady Hartsfield – the villain from Mr. Mercedes – and the ominous hints about the danger he might still represent. I for one will more than welcome Stephen King’s return to his old “hunting grounds”, hoping for a delightfully harrowing conclusion to this trilogy.

My Rating:

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14 thoughts on “FINDERS KEEPERS (Bill Hodges Trilogy #2), by Stephen King

  1. This sounds like such an interesting “middle book,” with the elements of writing and creating stories. I’d love to read this series and catch up with all the more recent King books I’ve missed lately😁

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m really the only one I know that can’t stand King. So while I won’t be reading this, I’m glad you enjoyed it! And I hope you like the final installment even more;)

    Liked by 1 person

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