Title: Finders Keepers
Author: Stephen King
Narrator: Will Patton
Audiobook Length: 13 hours, 5 minutes
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 2 June 2015
” ‘Wake up, genius.’
So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.
Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.
Not since Misery has King played with the notion of a reader whose obsession with a writer gets dangerous. Finders Keepers is spectacular, heart-pounding suspense, but it is also King writing about how literature shapes a life—for good, for bad, forever.”
Thoughts on the Novel: Call it the curse of the sequel. Call it whatever you want. The fact is that Finders Keepers does not live up to its predecessor in the Bill Hodges series. It would be easy to blame the villain, as Morris is not nearly as fascinating as Brady. Blame it on the story, which revolves around one young boy and his family rather than an entire city filled with potential victims. Blame it on high expectations. No matter where you put the blame, it still remains a boring story.
Part of the issue is the fact that there is no real life-or-death scenario. Pete and Morris are two entities circling each other for most of the novel but only meet face-to-face towards the end. Pete is not in any immediate danger, and, as such, you are not as vested in his fate as you perhaps should be. Instead, for most of the story, Pete is the good kid just trying to help his parents and keep his family happy and together. Any angst Pete displays creates no tension, as he is just a teenager in over his head. In other words, Pete is just like every other teen hero, trying to be more adult than he is capable of being at this stage in his development.
Along those same lines, Morris is a sympathetic figure. Sure, he may be obsessed with a fictional character. However, as you learn more about Morris’ life and his experiences in juvenile detention and in jail, his obsession begins to make sense. In the age-old debate between nature and nurture, you can make a great argument that Morris’ psychopathology originates more by his experiences (nurture) versus any inherent tendencies in his personality (nature). In turn, while there is no doubt that Morris lacks rational thought processes by the end of the story, he is more of a tragic figure than a true villain. Without a despicable bad guy and a hero with whom you connect at a more emotional level, the story falters. Your sympathies are with the wrong characters, and the innate suspense created by the opposition of the two sides disappears, if it ever exists. The rest of the story then shrinks to nothing more than a property dispute.
The only vital scenes within the entire novel are those when Bill visits Brady at the hospital, and the reasons why these scenes are so important are obvious upon the first time the two appear together. Because of this, Finders Keepers is just filler until all of the characters from the first novel reach a certain development point to allow their story to continue. By the end of Finders Keepers, most of them are there, which gives me hope about the series finale. The sad part is that if this is the case, then King could explain everything that occurs to Bill, Holly, Jerome, and Brady within Finders Keepers in a prologue or the opening chapters of the novel and spare readers this lackluster story. I guess the importance of Finders Keepers as a separate story remains to be seen.
Regardless of its importance, or lack thereof, in the Bill Hodges series, I finished Finders Keepers feeling almost cheated in the lack of true evil. I had to force myself to finish the story, even via audio, and that is not an experience I have ever had with a King novel. I just did not care enough about any of the characters, and at the same time the whole drama behind the missing journals dragged overlong. I will finish the series because the few things we get about Brady and Bill hints at some amazing things to come with their story. I just wish I did not have to slog through this disappointing story to get there.
Thoughts on the Audiobook: I adore Will Patton’s other performances of Stephen King’s recent novels. I love them so much that I never gave it another thought when I saw he was narrating this one. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed with Mr. Patton this time. At first, it was not any one thing. Some of the vocal inflections he uses for minor characters are indistinguishable from others. There is no sense of urgency to his narration. These are all minor things, easily ignored or overlooked. Then, he vocalized Holly Gibney for the first time, and it was all over. At first, it did not sound like Holly; I do not remember her sounding quite so…mentally challenged in the first book of the series. If she did, then I completely overlooked this because by the time Holly enters the scene in the first novel, the story is already to the “unputdownable” stage and therefore easily ignored in an effort to get to the meat of the story. As she plays a fairly decent part in this sequel, it is not as easy to ignore, much to my chagrin. The rest of the performance is as steady and solid as everything else he has done, which makes this one issue a major disappointment.