Magazine article The Spectator

'Finders Keepers', by Stephen King - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'Finders Keepers', by Stephen King - Review

Article excerpt

Finders Keepers Stephen King

Hodder, pp.384, £20, ISBN: 9781473698994

Finders Keepers is a sort-of sequel to last year's Mr Mercedes, Stephen King's first foray into what he called 'hard-boiled detective fiction'. The new book is not so much hard-boiled as slowly poached, Heston Blumenthal style, in a sous-vide water oven, then finished on a violently hot grill.

King has the popular novelist's gifts in spades -- a flawless sense of pace, an ear for dialogue, an eye for the telling detail, a no-mess-no-fuss approach to characterisation. He also has special insights into the uncanny: his frequent forays into the supernatural are wrenchingly plausible, while his rendering of 'ordinary' things -- a face, a doorway, the hollowed-out roots of a tree -- is steeped in mystery and threat. What he doesn't have -- and it is impossible to say this without seeming supercilious, but it's the honest truth -- is much in the way of literary affect. So when he explores the way readers can grow obsessed with writers (as in Misery and again in Finders Keepers ), it's sometimes hard to see where he imagines the particular power of writing to incite such an obsession might reside.

In the present book, a Great American Novelist, John Rothstein, as reclusive as all such figures are supposed to be, is surprised at home in the small hours by Morris Bellamy, a fervent fan of his work, and a couple of central-casting goons. Rothstein has seven shades of ambiguity knocked out of him; a tranche of unpublished manuscripts is discovered, stolen, stashed and abandoned, then found by Pete Saubers, a convenient teenage boy, three decades later. …

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