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Finders Keepers


Finders Keepers

FINDERS KEEPERS, the sequel to 2014’s MR. MERCEDES, is everything a thriller should be. Is it self-contained and stand well by itself? Yes. Is it nicely paced? Very much so. Is it suspenseful? Packed to brimming, my friends. Are the occasional to frequent fisticuffs/explosions present? Indeed. How about memorable characters? Yes, and the list includes a very frightening antagonist who keeps succeeding in spite of himself. Is it well-written? Very, very much so. Author Stephen King, in the twilight of a long and frequently brilliant career, gives us some of his best writing to date in FINDERS KEEPERS.

In this second installment of a trilogy, Bill Hodges is a retired detective who was prominently featured in MR. MERCEDES. He runs a sort of all-purpose skip-trace agency named Finders Keepers with the assistance of the somewhat emotionally wobbly Holly Gibney and the occasional help of college student Jerome Robinson. Hodges and his associates don’t really come into the book until it’s almost halfway over, though they certainly make up for lost time. Instead, the book opens with a fascinating setup that spans a time period from 1978 through 2014. There is no waste here, as King sets up his chessboard, getting all of his pieces into place and bumping into each other across time.

"King’s dark humor is on full display here. I will never smell --- or even think of --- English Leather cologne for the rest of my life without recalling FINDERS KEEPERS."

On one side is a semi-hapless trio led by a sociopath named Morris Bellamy. It is these three who, at the behest of Bellamy, invade the home of noted but reclusive author John Rothstein. Bellamy is furious with Rothstein, who created an iconic, rebellious character, Jimmy Gold, only to have Gold sell out (in Bellamy’s view) in the final installment of an apparent trilogy. There are rumors, though, that Rothstein has continued to write about Gold, while steadfastly refusing to publish anything. Bellamy, impulsive to a fault, murders Rothstein after confronting him. The trio makes off with a horde of cash and, more significantly for Bellamy, dozens of moleskine notebooks containing Rothstein’s handwritten and unpublished work. Bellamy has grand plans to read it and then sell it to a collector. He hides the money and the manuscripts, but before he can carry out his plan, he is convicted of another heinous crime and sentenced to “life” in prison, where he spends the next three decades and change.

Meanwhile, life goes on. In 2010, the unemployed father of middle school student Pete Sauber is seriously injured at a job fair when a maniac runs his car into a queue of people seeking employment. Pete, a quiet and very literate kid, watches from the sidelines as his family frays at the edges. Just when things are at their most desperate financially, Pete finds the cash and the manuscripts that Bellamy, still rotting in prison, had hidden. The money is a godsend, and Pete engineers a plan to get it into his parents’ hands without them knowing the source. He stretches the money out, well into his high school years, but eventually reaches bottom. As for the notebooks, Pete is aware of what he has, but isn’t sure what to do with them. He knows they are valuable, though, and begins making plans to turn them into cash.

Unfortunately, Bellamy has been released from prison, and while he has a parole officer riding his back --- and hard --- he wants what he regards as his money and his notebooks. There is a collision coming, and it’s going to be a big one, as Bellamy slowly but methodically tracks down where his treasure went and makes plans to get it back by whatever means are necessary. The only thing that stands between Pete, as well as his family, and the crazed Bellamy is Finders Keepers collectively. But they may not be enough. And we should know by now that one rule of the Stephen King universe(s) is that you can’t have everything.

You don’t need to have read MR. MERCEDES to appreciate the length, breadth and depth of what King has done here. The elements that have contributed to knocks on King’s work --- too long, padded, rambling, etc. --- are totally absent here. Bellamy is a truly frightening antagonist, ordinary but deadly in his unpredictability and ruthlessness, and is a terrific foil for the young and inexperienced but determined Pete. Oh, and King’s dark humor is on full display here. I will never smell --- or even think of --- English Leather cologne for the rest of my life without recalling FINDERS KEEPERS.

And one more thing. For those of you who miss the supernatural aspect of King’s work, there is just a drop of that in a couple of places here as well, which, I think, will play out in the third Hodges book. All things considered, FINDERS KEEPERS is even better than its predecessor, though your results may differ.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 5, 2015

Finders Keepers
by Stephen King

  • Publication Date: March 22, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • ISBN-10: 1501100122
  • ISBN-13: 9781501100123