Finders Keepers is the second novel in King’s Bill Hodges Trilogy, a set of three books revolving around retired police detective Bill Hodges. This one, in my opinion, improves on the first book, Mr. Mercedes, which was already pretty darn good itself. In this story, a psychopath murders a reclusive author because he’s unhappy about what the author did to the killer’s favorite character; he also steals the author’s private stash of notebooks so he can hopefully find redemption in those unpublished works of the author. But when the killer is arrested and sent to prison on another crime, the stolen goods languish where he’s hidden them as the decades tick by. Meanwhile, a young kid is seeking a miracle to keep his family together and when he stumbles on a long-hidden trunk, he may have found it. Bill Hodges is a bit of a Miss Marple here in that he’s really a supporting character; he doesn’t appear in the novel at all until about the half-point and for a while, he’s on the outskirts of the story. The book really revolves around the characters of the kid, Peter Saubers, and the killer, Morris Bellamy, and the way their respective paths put them on a collision course. King’s writing here is terse in the more hard-boiled style he’s chosen for this series. This book as a whole is very taut and tense. It doesn’t have the middle-of-the-book flab of Mr. Mercedes. This book is less of a horror novel than Mr. Mercedes; in Brady Hartsfield, Mercedes had a genuinely frightening and repugnant villain and, while it wasn’t ever really scary, the sequences from Brady’s perspective were always pretty grim and disturbing. But King structures this book to lull the reader into a false sense of security. The book opens with violence, but then it manages to bring the character of Morris Bellamy so vividly to life that you end up empathizing with him. As he struggles to survive in prison and then to readjust to life on the outside, he becomes a figure of great empathy; King does this all intentionally, I think, so that, when about three-fourths of the way through the novel, violence explodes in a shocking and graphic way, it’s a real shock to the reader. The book, like Mr. Mercedes, has a real propulsive rush once it reaches the climax and it becomes even more of a page-turner at that point than it already was. This book sees King returning to a lot of familiar territory. There’s something of Misery here, obviously, and The Shawshank Redemption, but to the degree that this is familiar territory, King goes over it so well and so compellingly that it isn’t a problem. In terms of character work and methodical plotting, Finders Keepers is more wonderful work from King and it’s a compulsively readable thriller, well-written, suspenseful & smart, with characters you actually care about. If you liked Mr. Mercedes, and I did, then you’ll love Finders Keepers. 4 stars.
tl;dr – King’s character based thrillers don’t get much better than this grippingly suspenseful, beautifully plotted novel; improves on the already excellent standard of Mr. Mercedes. 4 stars.