King, Stephen. Finders Keepers.

NY: Scribner, 2015.

This is a sequel to King’s first detective novel in the classic style, Mr. Mercedes, and it’s not only set in the same anonymous Midwestern city, its events begin with the same 2009 massacre-by-automobile at the job fair. This time, the victim on whom we focus is Tom Saubers, a husband and father who was laid off and is becoming desperate to find work. He survives being run over by the Mercedes but it takes several years for his injuries to heal, and the stress of all this nearly causes him and his wife to divorce. But his young son, Pete, has found a way to ease the family’s money woes.

Backtrack thirty years to reclusive American author John Rothstein, creator of the iconic Jimmy Gold, protagonist of three famous novels. Rothstein is elderly in 1978 when he suffers a home invasion led by Morris Bellamy, Jimmy Gold’s greatest fan, who feels betrayed that in the third novel the author did what Bellamy feels were horrible things to his character (especially having him go into advertising). But Rothstein has continued to write about Jimmy Gold in the eighteen years since his last book was published, and that includes two more Jimmy Gold novels, all in longhand in Moleskin notebooks. The twenty or thirty thousand bucks Rothstein has stashed away means little to Morris — he just wants those notebooks! And Rothstein is very messily dead at the end of it all. Unfortunately, Morris also has a habit of drinking too much, blacking out, and assaulting people, and shortly after he manages to hide the money and the notebooks, he’s arrested, tried, convicted of an unrelated rape, and put away for life.

Back to the present. Young Pete Saubers, poking around down by the creek to escape his parents’ bickering, stumbles on the buried trunk with the money and Rothstein’s notebooks, hidden so many years before. The cash, of course, is a godsend for his family, but the two additional Jimmy Gold novels change Pete’s life and by the time he’s finishing high school he knows he wants a career studying and teaching English lit.

And then Morris Bellamy, now fifty-five, is finally out on parole and looking for those notebooks. So this time, we’re one-third of the way into the story before retired police detective Bill Hodges, the hero of the first book and the supporting hero of this one, is even introduced. Bill is again joined by Jerome, now a Harvard man, and Holly, niece of Bill’s murdered girlfriend. Jerome is very sharp with computers (and practically everything else) but not as quick as Holly, who has OCD and various other problems but also flashes of brilliant insight. Jerome’s kid sister, Barbara, who was just a figure in the background the last time, has a major role in this case and features in a truly horrific culminating scene in the classic King tradition.

I’m not a big fan of horror and supernatural novels, but King is one of the best and most visual storytellers out there and this sequel is just as riveting as the first one. What’s more, the third volume of the trilogy is out now and I’ll be grabbing it soon.

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