In the chilling opening of Stephen King’s Finders Keepers, a sequel to his 2014 bestseller Mr. Mercedes, three words jolt elderly literary lion John Rothstein from a sound sleep, alerting him to the fact that he’s become the victim of a home invasion: “Wake up, genius.”
But these aren’t just any robbers. They’re led by Rothstein’s biggest (and baddest) fan, small-time criminal Morris Bellamy. Morris is unhappy that Rothstein has gone decades without publishing a new Jimmy Gold book (think John Updike’s Rabbit series), and he definitely doesn’t like that, in the last published novel, nonconformist Gold sold out to climb the corporate ladder at an advertising agency.
Morris kills Rothstein, stealing his money and his stash of notebooks—which, unbeknownst to him, include two more Jimmy Gold novels. But Morris is arrested for a different crime the next day, and the money and the notebooks are left to languish in a hiding place near his childhood home.
Fast-forward 35 years, and teenager Pete Saubers stumbles upon Morris’ treasure. The money comes in handy—Pete’s father is in chronic pain after being injured in the Center City Massacre, and the family is struggling financially due to medical bills and lost income—but the notebooks capture Pete’s imagination. Over the years, he falls in love with literature thanks to the story of Jimmy Gold. But when Morris is released from prison and realizes his hiding place has been discovered, Pete becomes his next target.
Luckily, police detective Bill Hodges and his sidekicks, college student Jerome and tech-savvy but socially awkward Holly, who starred in Mr. Mercedes, are on the case, thanks to a call from Pete’s little sister, Tina, who’s worried about his strange behavior.
At least one more novel featuring Hodges and the Center City Massacre victims is in the works. But the new characters shine as well: Pete is a worthy addition to King’s roster of memorable teen characters. He’s smart, brave and fiercely loyal to his family, especially Tina, but doesn’t always have the experience to make the right calls when it counts. Morris, on the other hand, is the sort of cold, calculating villain who will haunt your dreams. He’s spent decades waiting for those notebooks, and nothing is going to keep him from reading them.
King has long been interested in literary obsessions, and the divide between author and fan or creator and creation—think Misery, The Dark Half or Secret Window, Secret Garden. Finders Keepers continues to explore these ideas and adds another dimension: Pete and Morris are both willing to do a lot to hold on to Rothstein’s works. At what point does the hero become the villain?
Readers will find themselves pondering this question and others at the close of this accomplished thriller.