Tracing Trails : Finders, Keepers
Being completely honest, as I began Finders Keepers, I was a little perplexed as to how this book was going to fit as a followup to Mr. Mercedes. The characters from the first book are largely absent until fairly deep into the story and all I really had to hold on to was that it seemed to take place in a shared universe.
That said, the story of Finders Keepers is entertaining, despite not immediately feeling like a direct sequel. It had certain shades of his previous books as it seemed to deal somewhat with fandom and how those people interact with a favorite author.
As the book opens, a popular but reclusive novelist is accosted at home and robbed. In the course of that he is killed, the perpetrators taking with them a great deal of money as well as unpublished writing. It is this money and this writing that becomes the center of the story. It’s told largely from two perspectives, one being Morris, the killer. Before he is arrested for another crime, he manages to hide the money and the writing in hopes of using it to his advantage one day. The second character is Pete, a teenager who, years later stumbles across Morris’s hiding place and decides to use the contents to help his parents.
The story is largely a waiting game to see when these two characters will inevitably be brought together and King plays the tension well. And eventually, our heroes from Mr. Mercedes are brought into the fold.
I won’t say that this book is without its issues. Like the Mercedes killer, Morris starts off with several brutal acts of violence but for a large portion of the book, he just doesn’t carry the same level of menace I’ve come to expect from King villains. And as I hinted at already, I would have liked there to be a slightly stronger connection to Mr Mercedes. For a large part of the book, I felt like I was reading the next installment in a standalone series as opposed to the second book of a trilogy. And that might seem like a minor point but I think there is a difference. It’s the difference between reading something like say, Michael Marshall’s Straw Men trilogy and simply saying, “this week on the Hardy Boys.”
I did enjoy the story but when Bill Hodges does finally make his entrance to the story, I felt like he was shoehorned in somewhat. I think the makeup of the story could have been stronger if he was incorporated earlier on.
Still, the book manages to entertain. I did like the scattered moments throughout in which King took the various threads and characters in the story and brought them slowly together.
I also liked that, while Misery explored the relationship from the writer’s perspective, in this book we got to see things more from the reader/fan’s point of view. It’s an interesting notion to think of fans who passionately call for more material and product from the artists they love and support. Are they somehow deserving or owed more content like they demand, simply for their enthusiasm and monetary support?
It raises an interesting philosophical question. As fans who reward a writer with their hard earned money, do they have the right to demand access to the writer, to expect more? As a writer myself my natural response is of course to say no. But I also have to acknowledge that by creating the books, we did kind of entice them onto the ride in the first place. So while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that readers have to right to order up like they are at a drive-through window, we as authors should try and treat our readers with the respect and gratitude they deserve. There needs to be a middle ground.
And obviously I can’t support the way in which Morris airs his grievances to his favorite author. Homicide is definitely a few steps too far. And in the days of social media when authors pretty much need to have a presence online and are relatively easier to access, how many more Morris-like characters are really out there, lurking in shadows? It’s definitely something that deserves contemplation and I have no doubt that Stephen King has had his fair share of tenuous interactions with fans.
Holding this up against Mr. Mercedes, I’d say that both have their merits. Finders Keepers doesn’t have the handful of shocking scenes like Mr. Mercedes does but I also felt like the story was a little more engaging and crafted slightly better.
This book definitely shirks what would be the standard three-act book formula. In the standard model, act one serves to purely introduce the characters and the story is largely standalone. This actually fits with the Mercedes trilogy. But then, typically in act two, the same characters are put into a horrible position which then dovetails into act three. Acts two and three will generally feel much more connected.
And at the end of Finders Keepers, King does deliver a quick jab, a gasp of a moment that serves as a great cliffhanger. It also functions great as a launching point into End Of Watch. But with the core of the cast of characters being new to this installment, it does make the two books feel slightly out of sync with each other.
I would rate this along with Mr. Mercedes as towards the upper end of King’s recent output. They aren’t stunning literary achievements but they’re entertaining and really that’s what we need from a book. And I think these books have also been a sign of King’s versatility and his ability to bear down and just turn out a simple but well made story.
My name is Chad Clark and I am proud to be a Constant Reader.
To see more King reviews, check out my ongoing project, Tracing The Trails, reflections in order on the works of Stephen King.
Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page