Stephen King's Finders Keepers is half thriller, half literary satire

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Finders Keepers is part of a trilogy of Stephen King books that started with last year’s Mr Mercedes.  In Mr Mercedes, a madman named Brady Hartsfield drives a stolen car into a crowd of people waiting to get into a job fair at City Center.  Brady taunts a retired police detective named Bill Hodges to come out of retirement to stop him from killing again.  Hodges (along with his associates Jerome and Holly) manage to stop Brady, who ends up in a coma after Holly gives him a thorough ass kicking.  . 

Finders Keepers by Stephen King
Hardcover - $30 ($18 on Amazon)
Kindle - $14.99
Published by Scribner
449 Pages

Finders Keepers tells the story of another family connected to the City Center Massacre.  Tom Saubers was there that day looking for a job and was badly injured by Mr Mercedes.   On the brink of financial disaster, a mysterious benefactor starts to send the Saubers’ family money.   Thirty years ago, petty criminal and obsessed fan Morris Bellamy murdered acclaimed author John Rothstein after Rothstein ended his famous "Runner" trilogy on an unsatisfactory note.  After killing Rothstein, Bellamy takes money and notebooks containing Rothstein’s unpublished works and buries them in a trunk in his mother’s house, which would later become the Saubers’ house until the heat is off.  But, then Bellamy ends up getting himself thrown in jail for an unrelated crime. 

Thirty years later, the Saubers’ son, Paul, finds the trunk and starts to send the money to his parents anonymously.   When the money runs out, Paulstarts to consider selling the notebooks to continue to help his family.  To further complicate matters, Bellamy is released on parole.

Meanwhile, Bill and Holly have set up a detective agency called Finders Keepers that specializes in recoveries; Jerome has gone off to Harvard.  Jerome’s younger sister happens to be friends with Paul’s younger sister, and Bill and Holly find themselves drawn into the story which ends with a pretty ugly confrontation between Paul and Bellamy.

Up front, it needs to be very clear that these books are a real departure from what most people think of when they hear Stephen King. There is no real supernatural or horror elements; they are basically crime thrillers.  They aren’t even real mysteries since we know up front who is responsible for the various crimes in the books and why they did them.   

I did enjoy Finders Keepers quite a bit.  There were shades of Misery here, but it diverts in some new and interesting ways.   I also thought the parallels between Bellamy and Paul were really well done.  Both characters have a strong literary background, and see the value of these books as more than just dollar signs.  There was a lot of meat here, and it got some real depth to what could have been a real simple and uninspired thriller in lesser hands.

One thing that I found real compelling here was that so many of the characters in this book make a lot of mistakes and bad decisions, but they all make perfect sense for the characters.  Stephen King does a great job getting into characters’ motivations, and I thought both Paul and Bellamy were very believable characters.  Too often I read books where I feel like the characters are acting in arbitrary ways just to serve the story that the author is telling, but that is rarely the case with a Stephen King book. 

I also liked that King seemed to be having some fun tweaking what the idea of “great literature” was all about.  Personally, I didn’t think John Rothstein’s stories about “The Runner” sounded all that appealing to me, but then again, I am more of a fan of Stephen King than JD Salinger.  For me, it definitely felt like King was making some light-hearted commentary on good literature…especially with the Rothstein’s ridiculous taglines like “Shit don’t mean shit” and “I’m not going to be anyone’s birthday fuck.”   WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?  And yes, I can totally see these slogans ending up being popular sellers on college campuses. 

I do think it was real strange to include Hodges and company.  They don’t even appear until about a third of the way through the book, and they keep getting there just too late to do anything until the end of the book.  I also think that we don’t quite get enough information Holly to make her quirks make sense to a reader who picked up this book, without reading Mr Mercedes.  I normally like the way King ties his books together, but I think it would have better served this book to connect them through the City Center Massacre, not directly involving Hodges in this story at all.  King had already given us all the information we needed about Paul and Bellamy, so watching Hodges follow a trail we already knew real well just didn’t quite work for me.

Finders Keepers is a solid addition to King’s lengthy bibliography.  He manages to put together a real good thriller and character study here, and it is a very quick read for 450 pages.  If you’re a fan of Stephen King, or just curious what all the hype is about, it’s worth giving a look, though you might want to read Mr Mercedes first.

In November, Stephen King will be doing another collection of short stories, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams.  I love King’s Short Stories, so I’m really looking forward to that one!

Also, next year, the Hodges Trilogy comes to an end with The Suicide King, which will feature the return of Brady Hartsfield.  I don’t want to give any spoilers for Finders Keepers, but there are some definite implications that the third book will be more in line with what people expect from Stephen King. Something along the lines of The Shining, Firestarter, or Carrie.

 

Grade: 
4.0 / 5.0