Reading Finders Keepers, Stephen King’s new crime thriller directly on the back of Mr. Mercedes was both a blessing and a curse. While I enjoy Stephen King novels once in a while as a distraction, I’ve never been a huge fan. He does really excel at horror writing and so both Mr Mercedes and Finders Keepers, purely crime novels, somehow felt a little lacking.
The overall pace of the novel was exciting. It was a general page turner like so many of King’s novels are. It lacked the grizzlyness of Mr Mercedes however, and for a crime novel seemed to focus more on the psychology of poverty and the psyche of the criminal. No bad thing, let me assure you, but it certainly felt like a departure from the viscerally graphic murders of the previous novel. The descriptions of the Mercedes massacre and the job fair, and of Brady Hartsfield’s mother after imbibing poised hamburger meat in Mr Mercedes stayed with me for a few days after finishing it. The murders in Finders Keepers on the other hand were over relatively quickly with little to no fanfair or excess grimness attached. Without the insertion of Det Ret Hodges and his new company ‘Finders Keepers’, you could be forgiven for thinking you were reading a book which was not in the same series as Mr Mercedes, let alone a book which was the direct follow on from it.
In Mr Mercedes we were introduced to Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney and Jerome Robinson, the characters who should be integral to the plot of Finders Keepers but in reality were barely in it. With the introduction of Holly as a character left to very last minute in Mr Mercedes I did expect there to be a little more development of her character in this novel. While the characters from the first novel existed, their appearance is brief, and did not really flow with the rest of the plot which developed the new characters of the antagonist, Morris Bellamy, and the unfortunate Finder and titular Keeper of the stolen notebooks of the late, murdered, fictional Salinger-esque John Rothsein. Even Rothstein’s unpublished body of work is almost a character in its own right. Through Morris Bellamy and Pete Saubers I did start to feel attached to Rothstein’s work and wished I could read it for myself. With all of this in mind, I actually think Finders Keepers would have been a better novel had Hodges and co. not actually featured in it and it had stood alone as the spiritual successor to King’s earlier novel Misery.
Despite it’s other flaws, such as some clunky allusions to events of the previous novel, an unnecessary and irrelevant (to the plot of this novel at least)supernatural plot twist involving the near brain-dead Brady Hartsfield, and some questionable decisions of the part of its characters, Finders Keepers was a welcome distraction. It wasn’t brilliant, it didn’t blow me away, but it kept me entertained on some long journeys home. And isn’t that sometimes just what you need?