Review: “Finders Keepers” by Stephen King
Stephen King shows us the dark side of book lovers in “Finders Keepers,” the second of the Bill Hodges trilogy that began with “Mr. Mercedes,” which was an entertaining thriller, but an underwhelming read.
Fairing better than its prequel, “Finders Keepers” is an absorbing page-turner that questions the emotional connection between readers and the books and novelists they admire. In this case, a deadly connection. The novelist, John Rothstein, a man who wrote “The Great American Novel” by the title of “The Runner,” is murdered, leaving behind unpublished manuscripts, both a treasure and a ticking time bomb. His killer, Morris Bellamy, is obsessive and violent. He’s a man you fear can and will kill anyone who shares a scene with him. He’s also a fan, who takes that treasure and buries it before getting tossed into the slammer for a crime that should’ve put him in for life.
Years later, Pete Saubers, just a kid whose family is driving through the fifty miles of bad road that is financial discourse, finds the treasure, falls in love with the pages the way Morris did, and eventually hatches a plan to save his family. At that point, the bomb is still ticking, Pete doesn’t know it, and we are reading this happen, hoping it doesn’t go off. Quite the oddity, isn’t it? We want it to go off, that’s the point of reading this kind of book, but we don’t, but if it doesn’t go off, it feels like a copout.
“Finders Keepers” has a satisfying conclusion, not the best kind, but one that is dramatic, but also lenient on King’s part. I found myself consumed by the ride getting there, watching the pieces fall to place, seeing how everything unfolds. A large chunk of the book is the wind up leading up to the climax, a lot of backstory and only a hint of Hodges, who doesn’t really figure into this book until the last third. Despite its branding as part of the Bill Hodges trilogy, it’s Pete and Morris’ book. Their obsession, their parallels are what drive the story and in a way, Hodges’s role is somewhat reminiscent of Raymond Burr’s in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Kind of there, kind of tacked on, onlooking, commenting, that sort of thing. The retired detective could have easily been written out of the book and I’m not sure if anyone would notice.
Some parts felt like a stretch and there was definitely a little Dues Ex Machina sprinkled here and there, but I never once wanted to put the book down. It called me in a similar, but not that similar, way that Rothstein’s “The Runner” called to Morris and Pete, and similar to the books that call to Stephen King. Take away the cat and mouse games, the thriller elements, you have a book about the relationship between the reader and the page that calls to them.