by Stephen King
I have a soft spot for Stephen King.
I know it sounds weird, having affectionate feelings toward the master of the macabre, but there it is. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Maine and started reading his stories as an impressionable youth. (By impressionable youth, I mean bored junior high kid who appreciated place names she recognized showing up amidst the gore and fear.) Maybe it’s because I developed a respect for him as a writer, as a practitioner of the craft after reading On Writing.
Whatever the reason, I’ve been unwilling to test my feelings against his later novels. (My reading of his work pretty much trailed off around It, but I enjoyed the Dickens-like publishing schedule and story of The Green Mile. The Stand was my favorite.) But this book was a gift, intended for fun vacation reading. It does appear — judging from its cover, let me admit — it would be one: crime noir trappings, complete with intriguing and provocatively dressed brunette.
It was and it wasn’t, in the best possible way.
King has always had the the ability get into people’s heads by getting at their fears. It is a talent, being able to make people cringe and ask for more, all at once. Here, he doesn’t do gore, he doesn’t do supernatural, he does small island town Maine. Okay, with a dead body.
I loved this book because the characters in it sound just like the people I grew up around. Murder, She Wrote might have mangled the Maine accent so badly that folks “from away” may not be able to hear the real thing, but King still delivers it. The setup is tiny island town, two crusty reporters working on a local paper, their pretty young thing intern, and a reporter from a Boston paper making the rounds looking for mystery stories for a local color piece. Of course the old geezers don’t tell their story to the reporter from the city. But because she wants to learn, they tell it to the intern… and that’s how the reader hears it.
The genius here is that King tells you exactly what is going to happen — the whole point of the story is that it is an unexplained mystery — and you still can barely turn pages fast enough to see what happens. Thing is, the bastard doesn’t reveal all. On purpose. If you read it, you’ll puzzle over the Colorado Kid. You’ll keep puzzling. You’ll either fling the book across the room in frustration, or you’ll start wondering when King’s next book comes out.
In my case, I plan on reading more Stephen King. Highly recommended. (Unless the idea, as he puts it in the afterword, of “Wanting might be better than knowing” makes you crazy angry — in that case, skip it. But it will be your loss.)