This is a 178-page piece of pulp fiction written by arguably one of the greatest writers in American history. Say what you will about Stephen King, you must admit he is a master at his craft. That being said, when I finished this book and read his afterward (always a highlight of his books, in my opinion), he said that most people would either love this book or hate this book, with virtually no one taking the middle ground.
I’m one of those middle grounders.
This book was written for the Hard Case Crime imprint, a publisher dedicated to writing little paperback mystery/crime books that hearken back to the old days. There was a crime, yes; there were a great many clues to the crime, yes. However, this book focused more on three characters who happen to be interested in the crime than in the actual crime itself.
Now, ordinarily, this wouldn’t bother me in a King book at all. After all, King is a genius when it comes to characterization. I will always maintain that his Roland of Gilead is one of the most interesting characters created . . . ever. But, for an imprint called Hard Case Crime, I was expecting more noir and less conversation about the crime. And those characters he spotlights, while very charismatic, still seemed to be missing something to make them completely dynamic. The dialogue felt a bit too easy, and the characters a bit too obvious. I still loved them, nonetheless, but not as much as other King characters.
As always, his setting is expertly rendered, giving you just enough to see the water, smell the air, feel the chilly breeze, taste the fish and chips, and hear the voices. Less is more, and King has a firm grasp of this notion.
All in all, this was an entertaining read. Most of you folks could probably finish it in a day or two, and you’ll keep turning page after page. But, I think King is right, by the end of the book, you will either love it or hate it. Unless you’re like me, and see little things you both love and hate, appreciating the good and the bad. After all, few of us could ever entertain the notion of doing better than Stephen King at writing.