Finders Keepers by Stephen King is the sequel to Mr Mercedes and the second part of a detective trilogy featuring ex-police detective Bill Hodges. At the start of the book the reclusive writer John Rothstein (think J. D. Salinger) is murdered and his safe plundered for a huge stash of cash and a collection of notebooks containing unpublished writings including two novels continuing his most famous work – the Runner series.
Morris Bellamy, Rothstien’s killer, cares more about the notebooks than he does the money. He is an obsessive fan in much the same style as Annie Wilkes in Misery. He’s happy with pulling off the heist (which involved bumping off his accomplices at a roadside stop) until he’s told by his rare book dealing buddy that the manuscripts are too hot to sell. Bellamy goes on a bender despite knowing that when he drinks he’s apt to get into trouble.
The next morning he wakes to find himself in the slammer and accused of rape. Ironically he is convicted for this lesser crime – the authorities aren’t aware that he is a triple homicidal sociopath – and spends over thirty years in prison.
While Bellamy is doing time, the young Peter Saubers (a typical King character if ever there was one) happens to find Bellamy’s stash where it was buried in a trunk on some rough land at the back of his house (Saubers coincidentally now lives with his parents and sister in Bellamy’s old gaff). Saubers dad was injured by Mr Mercedes and the family struggles with debt, so Saubers anonymously sends packets of the money to his parents on a monthly basis. He also starts to read the notebooks all the while keeping it secret from his family and his nosy younger sister.
When the money runs out, Saubers decides to try and sell Rothstien’s notebooks. He picks Bellamy’s old bookstore buddy to do the deal because he has a reputation for being a bit shady and dealing in stolen goods.
Saubers’ sister contacts Bill Hodges, the man who caught Mr Mercedes who is now running a successful private detective agency called ‘Finders Keepers’, because she is worried about her brother’s erratic behaviour and gaunt appearance. She’s sure the monthly money packages were coming from him and that he’s got himself involved in something dangerous.
Bellamy, now released from prison, keen to get his hands back on the notebooks and having found his stash has gone, gets wind of this deal. He sets up to ambush Saubers at the bookstore and get the notebooks back by any means necessary. This meeting of the two main characters gets an otherwise very pedestrian book finally kicked into page-turning action.
All the characters are then piled together for a rather predictable ending in the dusty basement of a disused community centre that stands on the wasteland near where the trunk was buried. The basement is where Saubers has stashed the notebooks and (again coincidentally and ironically) where Bellamy has been hiding out away from his parole officer. In a nice touch before the grand finale Bellamy actually uses the box labelled ‘kitchen supplies’ (in which the unbeknownst to him the notebooks are hidden) as a step up to help him climb out of the community centre’s basement window.
While this main story ticks over to its inevitable conclusion, Hodges makes several visits to the hospital where the supposedly catatonic Mr Mercedes is being kept under close supervision. Because of the battering to the head he took when he was apprehended Mr Mercedes has developed telekinetic powers. No really. So I expect the final book in the trilogy ‘End of Watch’ will be more akin to King’s usual work as opposed to this expedition into crime fiction.
As a huge King fan I was a little disappointed with this book to be frank. The themes are well-trodden paths in Stephen King territory and I didn’t really feel particularly well connected to any of the characters. Hopefully the third book will be more exciting.