Gwendy’s Magic Feather (Button Box #2), by Richard Chizmar

Eight stars

After a successful collaborative effort with Stephen King, Richard Chizmar takes the lead in this sequel that brings Gwendy Peterson back into the middle of an adventure that has dire consequences. It has been a while since the reader saw Gwendy, who is no longer a teenager, but a full-grown woman. She finished school and soon became a popular author, riding the wave of much success as she found herself in writing. When a friend’s tragedy hit home for her, Gwendy took up the cause of helping those with HIV. A successful run for Congress has her representing one of the congressional districts in Maine. Just before Christmas 1999, Representative Peterson returns to her office to find a silver coin on her desk and the long-forgotten Button Box in one of her cabinets. Armed with what could be quite the weapon, Gwendy is not sure what to do, but realises that she cannot ignore this. While she keeps the box hidden, she enjoys the holiday time with friends and family in and around Castle Rock. When two teenage girls go missing, the town is in an uproar. Gwendy worries, but also has family issues that require her attention. When she receives a special gift from her parents that Christmas, Gwendy remembers her youth when she had a magic feather that she felt offered her special powers. As the end of the year approaches, another girl goes missing and Gwendy is trying to determine if it is someone she knows. She also discovers new and haunting powers that she possesses, which could help her hone in on the person responsible for the disappearances. A great novella that complements the opening piece well, while also making loose ties to some of Stephen King’s other books set in the Castle Rock area. Recommended to those who enjoy mystery pieces with a twist, as well as the reader who enjoys shorter reads.

I remember reading the collaborative novella a few years ago and being highly impressed. I have loved Stephen King’s work for as long as I can remember, particularly for the tangential writing with a purpose. When I learned that this sequel had been published and that Richard Chizmar did so alone, I was eager to see if he could keep up the same quality. He did so, while spinning some of the central characters and facts to work effectively decades in the future. Gwendy Peterson is now a successful woman who has impacted the larger community without losing her small-town sense. Now married to a man she loves very much, she also also a strong connection to her parents while fighting for her constituents in Washington as well. Her return for the holidays and trying to handle the reemergence of the Button Box propelled the story forward effectively and allowed the reader to see a little more about her character as she matured into a successful woman. Other characters help shape the story, some returning but many new to the mix. The banter worked well and kept the narrative clipping along. The story flowed and even with a late entry of the titular magic feather, things came together nicely. There was a mix of mystery and personal growth embedded in the plot, which flowed so well. Short chapters pushed the story along and Chizmar used an odd King-esque style that drops hints throughout, forcing the reader to be highly attentive to get everything from the story. I can hope for another instalment of these series, though I am not sure how Chizmar might do so. Then again, I love a good surprise!

Kudos, Mr. Chizmar, for a wonderful piece I devoured in a single day.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: