Thursday, 15 September 2016

TBT - Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Today has been so bloody hot again that I've done so little. I can't focus on anything. I could easily have written this hours ago but, once again, we're fast approaching the time at which I need to be asleep in order to function for my 7am start tomorrow and I'm finishing the damn thing. It's not as if I can't keep to a deadline I'm just in this hot weather haze where the idea of doing anything other than watch Netflix seems too taxing. I spent some time trying to organise my room and nearly fell off a step ladder earlier. It's just one of those days. The thing I've done best at today is spent money on clothes that I really didn't need. I mean I really really wanted them but I definitely didn't need them. After that, I've been fairly successful at reading. It's amazing how easy it's become now I'm reading a book I actually want to pick up. His Bloody Project may be the only Man Booker Prize nominated book I've read but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be my favourite. Oh, what a difference it is to that End of Watch. I kind of wish I could get my time back from Stephen King after reading his Bill Hodges trilogy. You know, add up the minutes, take them off his life and put them onto mine. Only seems fair. That final book was ridiculous. Although, they kind of all were.

The second book in Stephen King's Bill Hodges trilogy takes a brief step away from the Mercedes Killer of the first and third book to focus on an idea that has always been fascinating for the writer. It concerns the relationship between fans and their beloved authors. It discusses the depraved depths that some obsessives can sink to in honour of something that they love. You know, like those people who spend their days arguing about Supernatural or Sherlock ships on Tumblr but slightly more intense. Although, had Morris Bellamy, the die-hard fan at the centre of Finders Keepers, been born later he would have definitely run one of those unnerving Tumblrs that you come across and can't forget.

As he isn't a teenager/twentysomething sometime in the 2010s, the object of Morris' obsession is actually great American Writer John Rothstein. Rothstein is Salinger-esque novelist who became a key member of American literary history when he wrote a young man who was angry at the world and ran away to New York. Sound familiar? That book spurned sequels but, in Morris' eyes, the final chapter gave the character of Jimmy Gold an unsatisfactory ending. Unfortunately, Rothstein became a recluse and stopped writing. Well until Morris and his friends turned up searching for money and the notebooks that allegedly contain hundreds of pages of unseen writing. The encounter ends with Morris walking away with the loot and Rothstein with a bullet in his brain.

Morris isn't allowed his happy ending, of course, and before he can read the real ending to the Jimmy Gold series he is arrested for a totally different crime. Luckily he hid his stash beforehand. Unluckily that stash is found by teenager Pete Saubers at the very moment that he most needs it. Pete and his family have been suffering for years after his father was left disabled in the City Centre Massacre of the first novel. Pete also happens to be the first person to look at Rothstein's notebooks other than the author himself. Unsurprisingly, once Morris is released from prison he doesn't take too kindly to another set of eyes viewing his prize first. So he tracks down Pete to retrieve the items that have kept him going for years. Thankfully, Pete's sister has a vague connection with a familiar face; Barbara Robinson, sister of Bill Hodge's young friend, Jerome. Once Bill, who now owns an investigative firm, gets involved he is soon on Morris' trail, assisted as always by his business partner Holly Gibney. Can Bill save Pete before Morris finds him?

My main problem with this novel is how fucking coincidental everything is. The references to the City Centre Massacre, the timing of the money being found, the timing of Morris' release, the connection better Pete and Jerome's family, and how fucking easy it is for Morris to track them down. It's all just too easy to be realistic. I couldn't connect with the story because it seemed so fucking ridiculous. I mean how likely is it that Pete would hide the notebooks in exactly the place that Morris would take his sister? For fuck's sake Stephen, maybe try a little bit harder in future, yeah. To be honest, this felt more like a parody than a real attempt at a crime thriller. Everything as just too cliched or unbelievable. I couldn't take it seriously.

Then there was the fact that King kept harking back to the events surrounding the previous book. I realise that the references to Mr Mercedes were meant to keep it fresh in everyone's mind before the third book but we really didn't need quite so much recapping. It felt like you were watching a TV show that showed you a "previously on" montage every 5 minutes or so. It just gets repetitive and breaks away from the narrative too much. The only thing is ends up doing is making Finders Keepers feel even more like the middle part of a trilogy. I mean the story at its centre isn't even the main feature of the novel. The series was kicked started with a Mercedes flattening a young mother and her baby and now we have an old man really desperate to read a book. You know something bigger is coming and it feels as though King is really only just putting off the inevitable.

Which is a good way to describe this book. It follows a very obvious path but slows the pace somewhat with time jumps and multiple perspectives just the previous book did. It takes its sweet time getting to the conclusion but makes sure the readers will keep following. King is very good at writing readable books and including enough small cliffhangers and teasers along the way to ensure people stick with it. If you ask me, this isn't an example of a clever crime thriller but an incredibly clever writer. A man who has taken a forgettable story but written in such a way that people don't see the truth. Stephen King may have lost some of the greatness of his earlier works but he's certainly still got something about him. Something that keeps me going back despite being disappointed every time.

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