Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges #2), by Stephen King

Four stars

King returns with the second in the Bill Hodges series to tell a tale sure to impress fans and newcomers alike. John Rothstein, a sensational author in his time, chose to hang up his pen after writing a successful Jimmy Gold adventure series. Morris Bellamy, an avid reader of the series developed great angst at the sellout that Rothstein became, leaving the famed character to wither in a life behind a desk. In an altercation, Rothstein is killed and Bellamy works with two other henchmen to steal money from his safe and a collection of notebooks, filled with never published story ideas and further novels in the Gold series. Bellamy hides these treasures before he’s arrested for another crime and sent away. During his thirty-five year incarceration, much changes on the outside, including the emergence of high-schooler Pete Saubers, who discovers Bellamy’s cache. Saubers makes his way through the money and considers what to do with the notebooks, realising there may be others who want these books for their own collection. Bill Hodges is eventually brought into the mix, asked to poke around to determine how Pete may have come into such a large amount of money and the significance of the notebooks. As Hodges begins poking around, Bellamy is released from prison and goes in search of his cache, only to discover it has gone missing. Working with one of his former cohorts, Bellamy targets Saubers and seeks to collect the notebooks at any cost. The more Hodges learns, the more he discovers that Saubers may be in the crosshairs of a man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. With an ending right out of King’s other classics, the reader sits on the edge, wondering what Hodges can be to avoid an inevitable bloodbath. With a wonderful dangling thread from the opening novel, King sets up a powerful showdown for the final instalment, sure to bring Hodges to the precipice yet again. A good effort at a second in the series, though not as powerful as the first, King fans are in for a literary treat.

King is known for his tangential writing, forcing readers to read (or listen) carefully to pull out the relevant information in order to move forward in these sorts of novels. King’s style is such that there is a strong story, with numerous characters adding small bits of flavour to the larger narrative. At times silly, especially with the addition of the Holly Gibney character, King leaves it all out there for the reader to either love or hate what is on offer. The story did lag, for me, and was not as mystery-centred as I would have liked, spending much more time on the Bellamy post-incarceration and Saubers discovery of the notebooks than I might have liked. In a move away from King’s horror or paranormal thriller genres, the Hodges novels have a strong mystery aspect to them, while still keeping a gore factor sure to impress traditional fans.

Kudos, Mr. King for this addition to your collection.