I am a big fan of many of Stephen King’s books. I prefer the ones that are not horror stories, like 11/22/63 and novellas like The Body and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. When Entertainment Weekly published an excerpt from King’s latest novel Finders Keepers, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. I placed a hold through the library network, but so did 186 other people. Luckily, I stopped at the library last Friday and found the book on the special 7 Day Checkout shelf. These books can only be checked out for a week, and they can’t be renewed. I had several books in my reading queue, but I bumped Finders Keepers to the top. Thanks to my children being distracted by the video game Splatoon, and a mini road trip to the Lacrosse Jamboree an hour away, I was able to finish Finders Keepers in a couple of days.
Finders Keepers opens in 1978, with reclusive author John Rothstein’s home being invaded by three masked bandits. They are not only after his money; Morris Bellamy, the ringleader, is convinced that the aged author has a vast collection of unpublished writings. The hunch is correct- they load the Moleskine notebooks into a trunk, and Bellamy shoots Rothstein before leaving.
Thirty-five years later, a teenager named Pete Saubers discovers the trunk with the notebooks and cash. They have gone untouched for all those years because Morris Bellamy has been in prison, but for a different crime than Rothstein’s murder. But then Bellamy is released, and he goes back to his home (that the Saubers family is now living in) and when he realizes that his treasures have been stolen, he is determined to recover what (in his mind) is rightfully his, no matter the cost.
Several of the characters introduced in King’s novel Mr. Mercedes appear in Finders Keepers. I didn’t read Mr. Mercedes, but I appreciated the characters’ working relationship and camaraderie. The first scene with Bill Hodges was an excellent introduction and provided me with all I needed to know about him. Bill and Holly and Jerome become involved when Pete’s sister expresses her concerns about her brother’s erratic behavior to Jerome’s sister. This is fortunate for the Saubers family because Bellamy has killed for the notebooks before, and is prepared to do so again.
I could not put Finders Keepers down. I knew that I only had a week to read, but I finished in two days. The story switched perspectives frequently, and there was quite the dichotomy between Pete Sauber’s earnest desire to help his family, and Morris Bellamy’s chillingly methodical search for revenge. King masterfully builds up toward the inevitable showdown between the boy on the cusp of manhood and the grizzled criminal whose best years were spent behind bars. The story is nothing less than spectacular.
I also loved the concept of the reclusive writer. It is clear that Rothstein is a fictional version of famously reclusive author J.D. Salinger. Rothstein is even best known for his Runner trilogy, which feature the maturation of a sullen teenager named Jimmy Gold (shades of Holden Caulfield). One of the reasons that Bellamy targets Rothstein is because he is outraged by the direction that Jimmy Gold’s fictional life took, and he places the blame directly on Rothstein. Bellamy is obsessed with the notebooks, not just for their perceived value, but also because he genuinely cares about the content. Bellamy does not have a chance to read the notebooks before he is arrested, and this fuels his obsession during his incarceration.
I would absolutely recommend Finders Keepers. King has created a masterful story, filled with both humorous moments and absolutely terrifying ones. This is the sort of story that will potentially appeal to people who don’t consider themselves Stephen King fans. There are certainly explicit descriptions of violence, but a great deal has been spent to crafting the story and developing the characters. This is an intense story that spans decades and explores motivation, filial duty, and morality.