Finders Keepers is the second in a series featuring Bill Hodges, the retired detective who first appeared in Mr. Mercedes. But this book can really be read on its own, the references back to Mr. Mercedes aren’t too many in nature and the ones that are there are so well explained that you can probably get by without reading the predecessor. But if you’re a Stephen King fan, you’ve probably read it anyway.
The book starts in the 1970’s with Morris Bellamy and his pals breaking into reclusive author, John Rothstein’s house. The old man dropped out of the public eye decades before but was known to keep large amounts of cash in his home. They’re there for the money, but Morris is there for more. He doesn’t think that the author ever stopped writing and what he’s looking for are those notebooks, those writings that would take his beloved character Jimmy Gold from the literary graveyard back into the spotlight. Because he just couldn’t have sold out and gone on to live a normal life!! Because shit don’t mean shit, to quote Jimmy Gold. Of course things go sideways and even though he finds the notebooks, he decides to kill John Rothstein. Soon enough, Morris ends up in jail on a completely unrelated crime and all he thinks about are those notebooks and the money that he stole, but mostly the notebooks. His fanboy attitude reminds you of a certain number one fan from King’s earlier work, Misery.
Jump ahead to 2009 where teenager, Peter Saubers and his family moves into Morris Bellamy’s old home. His family has fallen on hard times after his father loses his job in the economic downturn and then his father was run down by Brad Hartsfield (Mr. Mercedes) while he was waiting in line for a job fair. His parents are fighting and he’s pretty sure that they are going to split up if something doesn’t happen. He happens to wander down to the vacant lot near the house and finds the trunk that Morris Bellamy buried decades before. He finds money and the notebooks and realizes that he can save his family. He starts sending the money to his family and it’s just enough to keep them floating until his dad can recover. There is no divorce and the family slowly begins to heal. Until the money runs out.
By this time Peter is a junior in high school and he’s read everything in those notebooks from John Rothstein. He knows enough to realize that he’s sitting on a treasure. He’s become desperate again for money because his little sister really wants to be able to go to the private school in town along with her friend Brenda. So he approaches a book dealer and tries to sell some of the notebooks. The problem with this is the book dealer knows about these notebooks. He was friends with Morris Bellamy way back in the day and knows that there are more than just the few notebooks that Peter has offered. Of course he blackmails Peter and demands that he get all the notebooks. Unbeknownst to both of them, Morris is no longer in prison and he’s come back to retrieve what he believes he is due. After all, he found the notebooks first and he needs to know what else John Rothstein wrote about Jimmy Gold.
Bill Hodges doesn’t come into the story until almost halfway through and by then he’s almost an afterthought. It was nice to see Holly and Jerome again and to see them work together as a unit trying to solve the mystery of the notebooks before poor Peter meets with an accident or worse. But they seem out of place and I think it really threw off the timing of the story when they were introduced. The threads did finally come together and were woven into a coherent and cohesive narrative, but the introduction of these characters was jarring at first. I guess I didn’t care so much to know that Hodges is now a repo man who has Holly as his office assistant. I think the introduction to Hodges could have been better done with simply having Brenda and Tina Saubers (Peter’s little sister) show up at his office…which they did later…to serve as the string that brings him back into the story.
I enjoyed the two main characters, Morris and Peter. I felt that they were well thought out and fleshed out. Morris definitely had some of that creepy “I’m your biggest fan!” vibe to him and he was just the right amount of crazy to make him believable and would definitely keep some writers up at night with nightmares. Peter is sympathetic, believable and it’s easy to empathize with him and very easy to put yourself into his shoes. But the other characters weren’t as well done, most of them were just cardboard cutouts to me. None of them were memorable other than Peter’s little sister, Tina and maybe Bradley Hartsfield. The rest were just okay.
I did enjoy the end of the main story and I did appreciate how things wrapped up for the main characters. I was a little dismayed at the very end. It’s clear that we haven’t seen the last of Bill Hodges nor have we seen the end for Bradley Hartsfield. I don’t like cliffhanger endings or books make it very obvious that there is going to be a sequel. But I think that’s more personal preference, so my review is not taking this into account. I would not recommend this book to anyone who reads Stephen King’s books to have the bejesus scared out of them. This is nothing like The Shining, Misery or any of his other horror novels. This is more a mystery with the old, crusty detective that everyone comes to love. I still don’t love Bill Hodges, but I do love Stephen King. While this was not his strongest novel, it was still pretty good.
Until next time…