For readers, one of life’s most electrifying discoveries is that they are readers—not just capable of doing it (which Morris already knew), but in love with it. Hopelessly. Head over heels. The first book that does that is never forgotten, and each page seems to bring a fresh revelation, one that burns and exalts: Yes! That’s how it is! Yes! I saw that, too! And, of course, That’s what I think! That’s what I FEEL!
Morris wrote a ten-page book report on The Runner. It came back from Miss Todd with an A+ and a single comment: I knew you’d dig it.
He wanted to tell her it wasn’t digging; it was loving. True loving. And true love would never die.
Not since Misery’s Annie “I’m your number one fan” Wilkes have readers come across a die hard fan such as Morris Bellamy. In Stephen King’s latest novel Finders Keepers, the line between fan and psychotic fanatic is wiped clean. Morris, an educated, but very angry young man, decides to pull off the heist of the century, or so he thinks. He and two of his cronies break into the home of reclusive writer John Rothstein, famous for The Runner series featuring Morris’ favorite character, Jimmy Gold. Morris has heard rumors that the old man has been writing ever since his retirement, which could net a fortune on the black market. But money isn’t his concern; it’s Rothstein’s work he wants. And also to settle a score. Morris isn’t happy with old Rothstein after reading his last book The Runner Slows Down. In that book, Rothstein puts Morris’ favorite character out to pasture so to speak, giving Jimmy the whole marriage-kids-boring-job routine. When Morris and his buddies break into Rothstein’s home, he ends up arguing with Rothstein about selling Jimmy out, which angers the writer. No, wait. It doesn’t anger him, the argument really pisses him off. Rothstein, not one to take a gun in the face like most of us, tells the thief, “It’s guys like you who give reading a bad name,” which earns him a quick shot to the head.
Morris, ecstatic about having Rothstein’s unpublished work (but not too worried about murdering the man himself), ditches his accomplices using his newfound skill and buries the notebooks and money in a trunk. Unfortunately, his lack of control after a bender gets him sent up the river for life, leaving the books and cash buried where no one can find them. Or so he thinks. Enter Peter Saubers.
Fast forward thirty-six years and we find the young Mr. Saubers at home, which ironically is the same one Morris Bellamy lived in with his mother. Pete’s family has hit hard times thanks to the tanking economy, and Dad decides to head to the job fair at the City Center. Yes, you guessed it, the same City Center where the Mercedes Killer made an appearance. Tom Saubers ends up in the hospital, alive but racking up major medical bills on top of the bills his family already has. When he gets home to recover, he is angry, his wife is overworked, and Peter and kid sister Tina are stressed. But what can they do? That question is answered when Peter literally finds buried treasure, Morris’ buried treasure.
Peter, who thinks his family’s prayers have been answered, soon learns that finding that trunk would be the worst thing that could happen. When Morris is released from prison after thirty-five years, his one thought is retrieving his booty, specifically Rothstein’s notebooks. When he realizes they’re gone, Morris does whatever is necessary to get them back.
Finders Keepers reads almost like a detective novel, but with a side of Uncle Stevie to give it that extra something. King brings back the gang from Mr. Mercedes: Bill Hodges, retired cop turned man for hire, forty pounds lighter and still mourning the loss of love Janey Patterson; Holly Gibney, his quirky but smart sidekick; and Jerome Robinson, Harvard student and wise-cracking third of the trio. Peter will need all of them if he’s going to escape Morris’ wrath and keep his family safe.
For those readers used to a bit more blood in King’s novels, you will be disappointed (except for one truly cringe-worthy scene that made me utter the word “blech”). Instead, we’re treated to a story that is fast-paced, at times funny and definitely a good read. Hodges and Co. have all grown in different ways but they still carry the scars from the Mercedes killer’s rampage four years earlier. Hodges, although taking better care of himself, isn’t quite done with that part of his life. His continued interest in what happened borderlines on the obsessive, and may (hopefully) become another book in what is seemingly turning into a series.
What I enjoyed most about King’s latest is his ability to show what books can mean to a reader. They can be a sense of comfort during dark times, an encouraging push for someone who needs it to move forward, or a friend when none are available. For Morris Bellamy, John Rothstein’s books were pure, unadulterated love, the kind that makes you root for, cry with or mourn a favorite character. However, Morris is a prime example of what can go horribly wrong when a reader loves a book or character way too much. His anger, frustration and horror at what Rothstein did to Jimmy Gold pushed Morris over the deep end. If anything, Rothstein is to blame for what happened to him, not Morris. In his mind, if Rothstein hadn’t sold Jimmy out, Morris would never have robbed and killed him. The author’s death was his own fault.
I can relate to how Morris felt about Jimmy (to a point). In book seven of King’s Dark Tower series, one of the characters was unexpectedly killed (I won’t say who). At first, I was shocked but then I did something I had never done before when reading a book: I cried. When I say I cried, I mean I sobbed like a little girl. I couldn’t believe what I had just read and was pissed that Uncle Stevie would do such a thing to Roland’s ka-tet. Eventually, I got over it and kept reading, but I was beyond sad afterwards. Did I want to take a quick trip to Maine and kick King’s butt? Of course! But since I know the difference between fantasy and reality, I knew doing such a thing would ensure a fast track to the nearest prison. My reaction just meant that King had created a band of characters I had grown to love immensely, which is why the Dark Tower series is my favorite of King’s books.
Be sure to grab a copy of Finders Keepers to introduce yourself to a new story while getting reacquainted with Bill, Holly and Jerome. I highly recommend it.