King, Stephen: Finders Keepers (2015)

Finders Keepers is the second part of Stephen King’s Bill Hodges trilogy. I also reviewed part one, Mr Mercedes. If you missed that one and would like to read up on it, you can do so here: King, Stephen: Mr. Mercedes (2014)

Seeing this review on here might come as a surprise after the last post I published. I think I made it pretty clear that I wasn’t too impressed by Mr Mercedes, so why read the sequel? Reason #1: the sequel could hardly be much worse than the first part of the Bill Hodges trilogy. Actually, this is reason #2. Reason #1 is that I’d rather suffer through another cringe-worthy crime novel than leave something unfinished. Also, I’m a relatively fast reader, so it didn’t take me too long to get through another 434 pages of King’s writing.

Unfortunately, many things I said about Mr Mercedes are equally true for Finders Keepers. The villain – albeit a new one – was again rather one-dimensional and somehow a bit too crazy to be true. The plot in itself wasn’t too bad, although it relied heavily on good old Mr Ohwhatacoincidence. One thing I liked about the story was the way it was connected to the first novel. The father of one of the major characters was badly wounded in the massacre that stood at the centre of part one, which instantly provided said character and his family with a back-story. And of course Bill Hodges, after whom the trilogy is named, returns with his companions, Jerome and Holly.

At first, Finders Keepers is divided into two separate story lines that merge eventually. One starts in the 1970s, the other in the 2000s.

In the 1970s, a famous writer was murdered in his house and the perpetrators stole cash as well as a number of notebooks with unpublished material. Two of the robbers were in it for the money, while the third had his eyes set on the notebooks all along. He is the nutcase I was talking about earlier. After the robbery, number three kills number one and two, and hides the notebooks before being arrested for a different crime. Too bad he didn’t get to read any of the unpublished material before being imprisoned for life.

Thirty years later in the second story line, Peter Saubers, the son of one of the victims of the Mercedes Killer finds Nutcase’s booty. Coincidentally, he admires the same author whose unpublished work he finds alongside the much-needed cash. Coincidentally, he also lives in the same house Nutcase grew up in – a fact that in my opinion did the story more damage than good. I like to suspend my disbelief for a reason, if I’m being forced to do so at all, and there’s no good reason why they have to be essentially the same person just with a forty year age gap – which is of course not the only difference between them, but you get my point?

Actually, this isn’t quite fair: Peter and Nutcase are in fact very different. Most prominently because Nutcase is a nutcase and Peter isn’t. It’s your classic good versus evil story. So classic, I don’t even need to tell you who wins.

Good and Evil meet once Evil gets out of prison and Good tries to sell the notebooks in order to be able to support his family. Coincidentally (sense a pattern yet?) Good tries to sell them to the one person, except for Evil himself, who knows about the stolen notebooks – including who stole them. Because Evil is a nutcase, who spent the last decades in a cell fantasising about finally getting his hands on the notebooks, he is devastated when he finds out that they’re gone. Knowing that he’s a nutcase who would do anything to get them back, it seems like Good is in some serious trouble.

And since Bill Hodges is the novel’s hero…Bill Hodges to the rescue!

Bottom-line: Finders Keepers could have been an interesting story about authorship, readership, obsession and insanity if the characters weren’t so completely exaggerated and hence hard to take seriously.

But there is hope for the third part of the trilogy due for publication in 2016. It was pointed out to me that Stephen King struggles with the crime/thriller genre and is much better at writing horror/mystery stories. Given that I didn’t particularly like either of the two crime novels I read, I’m inclined to believe this statement to be true.

But why does this make me feel hopeful for the third part of the Bill Hodges trilogy – a crime trilogy? Easy: throughout the novel, and especially towards the end, the theme of the third part of the trilogy, End of Watch, is hinted at. The hints point into the direction of Brady, aka Mr Mercedes, who had his brains beaten out of him at the end of part one. Since then, he’s been in a hospital that specialises in traumatic brain injuries. From the severity of his condition, it seems unlikely that he should be any more intelligent than a carrot at this point. However, whenever Bill Hodges visits him, he leaves the hospital with the strange feeling that there might be something else going on.

Anything that could be going on with Brady will probably force me to lock my disbelief into a different room while reading about  a near brain dead person turning into one of the x-men, but I’ll take it, and what’s more: I’m actually kinda looking forward to the third part now.  Please, please, please let my guess that it’s going to be a horror/mystery novel be correct! 

Does anyone else think that Stephen King is a better mystery writer than crime novelist?

Did anyone read Finders Keepers? Thoughts?

If you did: what’s your theory about part three? Will Brady return?


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