Finders Keepers

June 23, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

findersFinders Keepers by Stephen King

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Well, my guess about this series was correct: Finders Keepers is a standalone novel featuring characters introduced in Mr. Mercedes. I had the feeling from the way the first book ended that the series was going to be less A Song of Ice and Fire and more Harry Dresden, and Finders Keepers proves that point. The story features Bill Hodges and his cachet of odd helpers, but it’s not about them at all. Instead, it’s about an ex-con looking for something he stole over thirty years ago, and the young boy who found it.

The stories are definitely related — the young boy’s father was injured in the act of malice that underscored all of Mr. Mercedes — but they could just as easily have been separate stories set in the same universe, with whole new characters, and given King’s penchant for doing just that, I don’t understand why this book is part of that series. Bill Hodges doesn’t have to be the main detective here; he doesn’t even show up in the book until the other characters have been established and the main plot is underway. I guess it saves time with character development (Bill, Jerome, and Holly all show up, and aren’t really developed beyond their necessity in the story), but it seems puzzling, at least until we see that Brady Hartsfield, the Mr. Mercedes from the first story, also makes an appearance.

That, I think, is my biggest sticking point with the novel. I initially gave the book four stars, but the more I think about it, the more I think Brady makes this a three-star book. I complained a bit about King’s lack of efficiency of story in Mr. Mercedes, which isn’t in Finders Keepers, and the sequel maintained the same compelling narrative that was in the first book, so I nudged the rating up accordingly. The more I think about it, though, the more I think that King messes with the integrity of the first story — and thus the entire series — by attempting to follow up on it here.

Mr. Mercedes is a straight-up thriller. There’s nothing mysterious or supernatural about anything that happens in it, and as I mentioned in that review, the book is better because King can’t rely on his usual psychic-kid deus ex machina that’s prevalent in so much of his work. With Finders Keepers, King shows that he’s going to go back to that well one more time. Brady, having suffered a traumatic brain injury at the end of the first book, now seems to exhibit some unusual, unexplainable behavior that will certainly be the focus of the third book. In addition, King suggests that Brady’s time spent in a mental institution, near-catatonic and unresponsive, is just an act to keep him out of prison. Aside from the fact that it’s hard to believe a doctor could be fooled for so long, King used this device in Black House, too.

Finders Keepers by itself is also a straight-up thriller, and by itself would be a four-star book. The problem is that King decides to make this more than a straight-up thriller by shoehorning in a character who serves no purpose in this story other than to set up the next one. I would have been fine with the lack of characterization in his returning characters and the tangential connection to the events in Mr. Mercedes if King had reined himself in on that respect. Instead, his inclusion of unnecessary plot points and characters serves only to slow down the story, and reduces this to a three-star book.

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