To write this review in a way that gives this book (and its competitors) a fair reading, I need to ignore the fact that Mr King has already published close to 60 world wide best selling novels and that he is one of the biggest selling novelists the world has ever seen. I also need to ignore the fact that he has penned some of the finest supernatural and alternative fantasy stories ever published and that some of his works are at times close to beautiful, moving, pure, literature. So now I can treat this new release as a single, standalone novel and I will pretend that I have never heard of Stephen King. So I sit down, turn on my glorious Kindle DX and I commence reading. The story starts like this...
Augie Odenkirk is unemployed, single, with no dependants, but also no short term career prospects. He meets a single mom desperate for work at a small town exposition promoting local employment. Within a scattering of pages and a few hundred words, the reader finds themselves compelled to learn more of these two innocents, struggling daily against the economic forces - and that of fate itself - which have taken such a cruel toll on their lives. And to wish them well. Of course, some of us may want them to find happiness and ride off together into their own sunset. Waiting in line in the pre-dawn darkness, however, they are met and destroyed by the modern day face of evil. The reader is already attached to the characters in question - the trilogy of victims we are introduced to are all so beautifully drawn and created by Mr King that within a handful of pages you are shocked and almost moved to tears by the drama that unfolds before your eyes.
We subsequently meet the hero of the tale - Retired Detective Hodges.
On a superficial level it is easy to imagine flaws in the book where none exist. The good guys are obvious and the bad guy is, too. One can't call this book a mystery, its more of a totally modern techno thriller update on the eternal battle between good and evil. Mr King's legion of Constant Readers will be very familiar (and comfortable) with this theme. Emotional attachment has always been a strong point of Mr King and this book is no exception. The bad guy is despicably bad and the good guy is so human (ie: flawed) that he is in our hearts by the end of part one. As the story progresses, we get to know the book's characters even more closely and we see the huge mistake Brady has made by taking on Hodges. The plot and pacing are perfect. Mr King has always left traces of addictive caffeine scattered across his pages so that it is almost impossible to stop reading until he says it's ok to stop reading, and this latest thriller is no exception. The suspense builds chapter by chapter. With the increased awareness the reader has of uber-sicko Brady Hartsfield, the more terrified they will become of what his plans for impending chaos he has in store. On a personal level, it appears that he lacks social, moral and even ethical boundaries, which makes him a very dangerous individual.
Ret. Det. Hodges, if only you knew what you are up against.
But the hero of this tale is retired, as we know. His only child is a fully grown and mature woman. His wife is dead. Being involved in this case again - albeit unofficially - has given his life some direction. One wonders even at an early stage of the book, how the story will end, and who will survive. Selfishly, one hopes for Hodges to live to fight another day, at least for the reason that Mr King will have to give us at least one more book!!!!!
The ending to this new age techno thriller is fine. It leaves the reader wanting more, with the potential for a sequel featuring at least one of the charscters. Mr King led the reader a merry dance before the final page, so we were never sure what was going to happen. My heart was in my chest at least once during the final stanza and i am glad that my fears and assumptions were wrong. So once more, the world owes Mr King a huge thank you for providing another strong example of his story telling abilities. The only complaint i have is that there was no mention of his Constant Readers in his afterword.