not merely superfluous, but ridiculous
this post was originally published on my Goodreads account.
Well, this was a pleasant surprise. The prospect of King, a writer never known for great endings, tackling a murder mystery, a genre that is almost wholly dependent on the ending, did not promise great results. What I forgot, of course, is that the beginning and middle of any murder mystery depends on the author’s ability to make us care for the main characters–and it’s this skill that King possesses in spades. The book doesn’t feel like a crime novel, even though it was written for a crime novel publishing imprint; it doesn’t feel like a ghost story, even though there’s at least one ghost in it. What it feels like is the youthful nostalgia of early King (think “The Body” or The Dead Zone) crossed with the autumnal wistfulness that entered King’s writing starting with Bag of Bones and reaching its peak with Hearts in Atlantis. It’s a look at the summer you turn 21 from the perspective of a 65-year-old man, and one of the novel’s main attractions is how King frames the disconnect between these two points of view.
Also, this is burying the lede a bit, but when the book kicks into crime-story gear, it’s awfully good. King knows his way around the basic mechanisms of the genre, and while you wouldn’t be too hard-pressed to guess where the story is going if you think strictly in terms of the genre, his character-based approach make each revelation feel completely organic. The shorter length of the story and expectations of the crime novel seem to free King up to take a few of his old standbys out of the cupboard–a psychic child here, a haunted building there–and creating something familiar but new with them. I was shocked by how well it all comes together in the end.