Review: Finders Keepers by Stephen King
When Brady Hartsfield drove a stolen Mercedes into a crowd of people who had spent the night in a queue waiting for a job fair, he killed eight outright, maimed three, and seriously injured another dozen.
Among the victims was Tom Saubers, who had lost his job during the economic crash of 2008. The injuries he suffered that day took him off the job market altogether during a long and painful rehabilitation. He grows dependent on oxycontin. The Saubers are forced to move to a less affluent part of town and cut corners. Tom and his wife argue frequently (arkie-barkies, his children Pete and Tina call them), mostly over money.
So, when Pete literally stumbles upon a trunk full of cash in the vacant lot behind their house, it is just the boost the family needs. Pete knows that his parents will be suspicious of the money’s origins and want to turn it in to the police, so he comes up with a plan. Finders keepers, after all.
Also in the trunk are stacks and stacks of notebooks, but Pete doesn’t appreciate their value at first. When he learns more about reclusive author John Rothstein, who was murdered at his remote farmhouse decades earlier, he understands that the handwritten manuscripts they contain are the real treasure. Among them are two full novels that complete the cycle of Rothstein’s most famous trilogy. They could be worth millions. But how can a teenager convert these into much-needed cash? Only by venturing into the shady and dangerous world of black market dealers.
The trunk was buried by Morris Bellamy in 1978 after he raided Rothstein’s home. The young hothead was incensed by the way the author betrayed his protagonist, Jimmy Gold, in the final book of the trilogy. He hopes that, in the twenty years since he last published anything, Rothstein had a change of heart and rehabilitated Gold. Like Annie Wilkes from Misery, Bellamy wants to convince his favorite author to see the error of his ways. But he ends up spending most of his life in prison, unable to savor the proceeds of his robbery. When he’s finally paroled in 2014, retrieving and finally reading those ledgers is all he can think about.
Which puts Pete and Bellamy on a collision course that builds to the explosive confrontation that is the business of the novel’s second half. The heroes of Mr. Mercedes, retired detective Bill Hodges, his assistant Holly Gibney, and Harvard student Jerome Robinson, are on the case again, even though they aren’t exactly sure what’s involved or at stake. Pete’s sister enlists their help when she deduces that he’s gotten into serious trouble.
King draws inspiration from crime writer John D. MacDonald, who wrote the introduction to Night Shift. MacDonald’s most famous creation was a beach bum who helped people who had things stolen from them in ways that made it difficult to recover them via normal channels. Pet Sematary and Cujo made cameo appearances in a couple of the McGee novels, and King returns the favor here.
Though this is a sequel and the middle book of a trilogy, Finders Keepers can easily be read as a standalone. The important events of Mr. Mercedes are summarized as needed. Though this, too, is a straight crime novel, King seems to be edging back toward Stephen King territory with the groundwork he lays for the third and final book. Brady Hartsfield is destined to rise again, and he may be more dangerous than ever.
An exciting second chapter, in a trilogy, that is destined to be one of Stephen King's finest achievements in mystery / thriller fiction. We're looking forward to the third volume in the series!
-- Stephen King Catalog / Overlook Connection