In this second book of an intended trilogy, the now retired former police detective Bill Hodges, runs his agency called Finders Keepers with the help of Holly Gibney, who acts as his secretary. He has trimmed down, having recently suffered a heart attack. Other familiar characters also return in this novel, and with all of them, the excitement continues and crimes get solved.
In this installment, we learn that a certain Morris Bellamy is going to be released from prison after 35 years. He was sentenced to life in prison for the brutal rape of a woman, a woman who had attended each of his parole hearings in order to prevent his release. Prior to his capture and sentencing for the rape, he had committed a murder and burglary for which he was never caught or charged. So that he could not be connected to the crime, he buried his booty under a tree at the back of the house where he lived with his mother, an author and English professor. Bellamy and his two friends had murdered the famous 80 year old author, John Rothstein, and stolen his money and his manuscripts from his safe. Morris Bellamy believed that Rothstein had destroyed his favorite character in the Jimmy Gold trilogy, making him a sell out, but he also thought that there might be another novel in the Gold series, one that redeemed Jimmy, the character he identified with and obsessed about as if he was real. He believed the missing volume was not yet published, nor would it ever be, because Rothstein had not published anything for the last 18 years. He did write, however, but just for himself, not for the world to see. Ironically, while in prison, Bellamy, too, became an author, an author of letters and appeals for his fellow inmates who were largely illiterate.
This book is sometimes told in two parallel time lines, one in 1978 and one in more or less present time. In 1978, Morris Bellamy and his two friends committed a shocking crime. In 2008, three decades later, there is another shocking crime committed by Brady Hartsfield. Tom Saubers is waiting on line at a job fair and is severely injured when a Mercedes is deliberately driven into the crowd, slaughtering and injuring a large number of innocent victims. Tom, who had already been unemployed, required months of rehabilitation and was not sure he would ever walk again. As time passed, the stress on the family caused further financial and marital problems. Tom and his family had to move to a less expensive area, and coincidentally, they moved into the house once occupied by the violent criminal, Morris Bellamy. Now we have that connection between the characters and the connection of two horrific crimes committed, decades apart, by two different madmen.
In 2010, heavy rains loosened the bank around a tree that was adjacent to the property that was occupied by both of these families, albeit, at different times. Its roots were exposed. Pete Saubers, sitting outside dejected because his family seemed to be falling apart, spied something hidden between the roots. Although it was good and stuck, he managed to extricate it and discovered a buried treasure; he discovered money and handwritten, unpublished manuscripts. He recognized the writing as the work of one of his favorite authors, the very same one that had disappointed Bellamy with his portrayal of his fallen hero, Jimmy Gold. He realized that the treasure must be stolen, but desperate to help his family, Pete decided to keep his discovery a secret and anonymously sent his family the cash from it, every month or so, until the money ran out. When his sister was disappointed because she couldn’t go to the school her friends would attend, he decided to try to get more money by selling the stolen manuscripts. He wondered if he would get caught and go to jail, but he didn’t know what else to do to help his family. His parents were happy again, and he didn’t want to spoil things. They needed the extra cash.
When, in 2013, Morris Bellamy, is finally paroled, he is still obsessed with Jimmy Gold and not at all rehabilitated. He sets out to recover his hidden loot with a vengeance. He wants to search through the manuscripts to find and read that last book he believes Rothstein had written about Gold. He returns to the property of his former home, but when the loot is no longer buried under the tree, he begins to search for the person he thinks has stolen it. Eventually he is led to Pete Saubers.
The action in the novel is intense. Winding in many directions, it always returns to the beginning to connect the missing dots. Even when the connections are a bit contrived and not very credible, the pace quickens and continues to hold the reader’s eyes on the page. It is really hard to put the book down. The reader is always wondering when the next shoe will drop, and who will be the next victim to fall prey to this monster. Also, although this is not his normal horror genre, which I generally do not read because of its intense violence and cruelty, in this book there is no shortage of brutality and sadistic behavior to all and sundry. King’s characters are often insane and unsavory. He gives them permission in their madness, to carry out the most coldblooded crimes, the most heinous acts that their warped imaginations make them capable of committing. Even scarier, sometimes, are his characters that are not insane, but still they do insane things!
When the first book in the trilogy ended, “Mr. Mercedes” was critically injured. There was little hope that he, Brady Hartsfield, would ever fully recover from injuries sustained when he was attacked by Holly Gibney. She prevented him from setting off a bomb at a crowded music concert, thereby preventing the murder and injury of countless people. Brady returns in this novel with Holly and also Jerome Robinson, now a college student. Brady is still a patient in a major hospital as the authorities wait for him to recover enough to bring him to trial. He is visited often by Bill Hodges who seems to take pleasure in tormenting him with cruel remarks each time he visits on the off chance that there is someone still inside his head, but Brady never shows any reaction to his barbs. At one time, Brady tried to influence Hodges to commit suicide. Now, one of the nurses in the hospital has committed suicide and Hodges wonders if he had anything to do with it. Since he does not communicate and is not mobile, it seems doubtful. However, there is a rumor that Hartsfield has developed some kind of magical power since he sustained his injury, a power that enables him to move things around and turn things on and off, like bathroom faucets and e-readers, while confined to his bed. This theory seems to be setting up the premise for the coming third book because the way King ended this book, the reader may expect Brady to return in the third installment.
Meanwhile, the villain in this book is not Brady Hartsfield, but is, rather, Morris Bellamy, the man who has spent more of his life in prison, than out of it, a man who, though he has spent decades in prison, had not been rehabilitated. The book is peppered with an abundance of platitudes that will make the readers roll their eyes. Sometimes, the story actually does not really seem plausible, but King has a gift, he puts even the most outlandish situation on paper and it is written in such a way that the reader not only believes it, the reader can’t wait to read on and will wait panting for the last book in the trilogy to be published to see how they are all tied together. This second book ends July 26th 2014, and I suppose this date will be very significant in the third book of the trilogy.
***I am curious about one thing, though. Why did King use a Jew, Rothstein, as the hoarder, not only of words, but of money? It is a rather disgusting variation of a negative stereotype.