Apt Pupil, by Stephen King

Eight stars

Turning to another of my Stephen King novellas, I wanted to see about the hype this story has received over the years, as I fit it into my reading experience. Todd Bowden is a great student, who has mastered many of his classes at school. He is also quite intuitive, something he likes to show those who pay him some mind. While delivering a newspaper to one of his customers, Todd confronts the elderly Mr. Kurt Dussander. Todd explains that he knows Dussander is not who he purports to be, but rather a Nazi war criminal hiding in plain sight. After some deflection, Dussander admits to it, allowing himself to be extorted as Todd asks many questions about the time running one of the concentration camps. Dussander thinks that he might be beholden to the boy, until Todd begins having horrible nightmares about what he is being told and his grades take a nose dive. Todd and Dussander enter into an agreement with one another to keep both their secrets safe, growing closer as they do. From there, the story moves into a set of odd occurrences, whereby both Todd and Dussander target those who are less fortunate for their own sick joys, still extorting one another in a way. Dussander’s ultimate secret remains under wraps, though time might push the truth along faster than anyone could have expected it. A chilling tale that King tells so well. Recommended to those who love a good dose of Stephen King, as well as those who enjoy novellas filled with masterful narratives.

The versatility of Stephen King’s work is on display here with something that is less horrific in its true sense, yet still spine tingling. King portrays the interaction between two characters with little in common yet almost a match made in heaven, where they must rely on one another. Todd Bowden is a sharp student who has everything going for him. His curiosity gets the best of him and he soon finds himself caught up in a web of lies and horrible tales that he could not likely fathom on his own. This spiral out of control leads to many an issue and Todd is soon trapped inside a game of blackmail tug-of-war with an old war criminal. On the flip side, Kurt Dussander finds that the life he has tried to keep hidden from everyone is one telephone call from being revealed. Though elderly, Dussander knows that he would not be handled gently and wishes to take his horrible past to the grave. Both characters engage in some highly suspicious behaviour, as though feeding their secrets with the pain of others. The handful of secondary characters work well in this piece to serve as backdrops to keep the story moving, though none make too much of a lasting impact. The story works well and King is able to develop it in such a way that the reader cannot know what to expect, while knowing the end result at the same time. These secrets have a way of getting out, even if Dussander and Todd try to keep them hidden. Even an apt pupil will sometimes speak of the lessons his instructor inculcates through daily interactions!

Kudos, Mr. King, for another winning novella. I cannot get enough of your work and will keep devouring the stories whenever I can.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons