I loved Mr Mercedes. It wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t even amongst King’s best but with over 50 novels to his name, that’s not half bad. It was thrilling and kept me turning the pages with genuine intrigue. It’s the kind of book that reminds me how much I love reading after the relatively laborious efforts of lesser writers.
The biggest negative comment I’ve heard, and this seems to be an issue a lot of fans shared, was the pacing of the first half or so of the novel, and the fact that Bill Hodges, our protagonist of the first novel and probably this too, doesn’t appear until about forty percent of the way through. At the time this wasn’t a problem for me; I was thoroughly invested in the characters of Pete Saubers and Morris, and although there was little action, I found myself as eager to keep reading as I was in the build-up to the climax. In retrospect, it might have been an idea to feature Bill earlier in the novel, although I understand that his part in the larger story didn’t come into play until later.
The characters were great, the story was thrilling and engaging, and the writing kept me reading without any slow down in pace. The writing is largely commercial, I would say, in that it’s very easy to read and serves the story great, and is even seasoned with some great description but for the most part leaves something to be desired in more literary writing. What I mean is, there is little that makes you think, little substance to the novel, other than a fun read, but that’s what King writes. I’m cool with that.
My main issue with Finders Keepers was the latticework of characters building up to the finale. Of course all of the storylines have to converge and all the characters come together but a lot of the logic that leads characters to cross paths seems to be very coincidental and on the part of the writer, almost lazy. It’s like they speculate upon the very specific circumstances of the story and hold them as gospel as they happen to lead them right to where they need to be. I think some carefully considered causality would give a greater sense of realism than just pure coincidence and speculation - chance, basically, but hey artistic licence and all; it’s an exciting, fun story in the end so it’s not a huge issue.
I love how well King can portray an antagonist. He did it with Brady in Mr Mercedes, and he does it again with Finders Keepers, and it’s a pretty crucial skill in this genre of literature that he describes as hard-boiled detective fiction. I don’t read much crime, but it certainly has a different dynamic to your typical whodunits where the build up is to the revelation of who committed the crime and how. I find this genre heavily saturated and so riddled with cliches that it takes a really good writer to make any kind of impact. This genre, on the other hand, is a tense cat-and-mouse chase to prevent a crime. And for the cat part, we need a convincing and relatable antagonist, which King nails.
Let’s finish by talking about the ending. The last chapter. The final jump scare in a horror movie, after its peaceful resolution. Mild Spoilers ahead so tread carefully. Although I more or less saw it coming, the final chapter was still incredible creepy and satisfying. I have a slight issue with King undermining the foundations of the realist world he’d setup not through just this novel, but Mr Mercedes too, and introducing supernatural elements, although probably it’s the unexpectedness that gave it such impact. I’ve never truly been scared by horror I’ve read, not like I have in movies or games, but the creepy atmosphere and development created in this final chapter is among those closest to it. Of course, I’m now drumming my fingers, calculating how long it is until End of Watch, the third novel, comes out, and ahhhh it’s far too long. At least, it took me 6 months to read this one so it’s only another 6 to wait, but goddamnit King, why you do this?
Finders Keepers was fucking awesome. Master of Horror? Shit, King can nail thrillers too; hell, better than most thriller writers out there. I’d say even better than Mr Mercedes, although it’s been a while since I read it. Either way, you won’t be disappointed, whether you’re usually a Stephen King fan or not.