Book review

Stephen King's Finders Keepers

Finders keepers
Finders keepersPHOTO: PANSING

By Stephen King

Hodder & Stoughton/Hardcover/370 pages/$27.99 before GST/Books Kinokuniya/2.5/5

I love Stephen King's horror stories, such as Carrie (1974) and Christine (1983), which are rich in references to American pop culture and evocative of small-town American life.

But Finders Keepers, which like Misery (1987) is also about a writer tormented by a rabid fan, is a crime thriller thin on both suspense and horror.

In King's 55th novel, a maladjusted young man hatches a plot to break into the house of a reclusive author whom he is obsessed with, to steal his unpublished notebooks.

The young man makes off with money and the author's unpublished writings, but is jailed for another crime before he gets to look through the manuscripts.

While he is locked away, a bookish teen chances upon the hidden treasure and decides that it is finders keepers. This sets things up for a tussle between a duo united by their love for the series.

Stephen King's Finders Keepers, which like Misery (1987) is also about a writer tormented by a rabid fan, is a crime thriller thin on both suspense and horror.

King tells the story by alternating between past and present, felon and boy. But it is not hard to connect the dots and figure out where the story is heading.

After Finders Keepers, I picked up Cujo, his 1981 novel, and could hardly put it down. It was much better in building up a sense of foreboding.

What keeps one turning the pages is also curiosity about the unfathomable nature of the monster that the characters have to grapple with. The well- fleshed-out characters make me want to find out if the monster actually gets them.

In Finders Keepers, however, the chief villain Morris Bellamy is more or less a spoilt brat from a well-off family and the young hero Pete Saubers is like a boy scout.

Not much mystery there.

And they are so thinly sketched that one does not feel enough for either to care about what happens to them.

Finders Keepers is the second book after Mr Mercedes (2014), in a trilogy about retired detective Bill Hodges, who appears late in the story.

It is almost as if King has to spice things up by throwing in Hodges and his sidekicks, but their backstories hold up the narrative.

The best thing about the book is the figure of the reclusive author, John Rothstein, who is reminiscent of J.D. Salinger. Like the author of The Catcher In The Rye (1951), Rothstein is also known for creating a non-conformist hero in Jimmy Gold, whose mantra is "Sh** don't mean sh**."

Finders Keepers may be interesting for King's ruminations about writers and their fans, but fans of King might prefer his earlier novels.

If you like this, read: Misery by Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton, 2011, $15.36, Books Kinokuniya), also on the horrors that await authors when they kill off well-loved characters from their novels.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 05, 2015, with the headline 'Finders keepers'. Print Edition | Subscribe