Stephen King’s Holly – Book Spotlight

Hey there, Readers! Welcome to October! Yes, folks – we’ve finally hit Spooky Season! I’m reviewing one by the King of horror today, Stephen King, but I also have something spooktacular planned for later in the month! So stick around for spotlighted frights and page-turning recommendations sure to scare!

I’ve made no secret of my adoration of Stephen King in these monthly book based articles. He’s been a favorite of mine for about two thirds of my life and as long as he’s writing? I’ll be reading it. Having said that I will admit, his newer works can be characterized as a bit softer than the stuff he was putting out in the 70s through the 90s. I enjoyed the Bill Hodges/Mr. Mercedes trilogy for example, but I don’t remember them with the same visceral stomach twisting feeling I get when I think about The Regulators or Desperation. (Fun Jim fact for anyone who might be interested – my favorite piece of writing ever bar none is the introductory few pages of The Regulators. It’s just plain
wonderful. If you read nothing else I suggest, give those few pages a look-over.)

So! With my biases out on the table, let’s strap on our gum-shoes and embark on the latest case for Finders Keepers and more specifically, Holly Gibney. Her partner Pete has come down with a case of something nasty…

(It’s not Captain Tripps. Man. What a difference that would make…)

Book Stats

    Author: Stephen King.
    Formats: Kindle, Hardcover, Audio CD, and Audiobook.
    Price: $14.99 for Kindle, $17.99 for Hardcover, $40.49 for Audio CD, and $24.80 for the Audiobook, or one Credit on Audible.
    Length: 463 pages or 15 hours 24 minutes in audio format.
    Narrator: Justine Lupe with an afterword read by Stephen King.
    Number of books in the series: Technically a stand-alone book but with strong ties to the Bill Hodges trilogy, The Outsider and If It Bleeds.

Basic Premise

Missing persons cases are nothing new for Holly. Bonnie Dahl is a cute, blonde girl in her early 20s, seemingly done with her overbearing Mom. A runaway. Her bike was found abandoned with a note stuck to it. Still, Penny Dahl, Bonnie’s Mom, doesn’t believe it.

There are a couple of problems, though. For one, Pete is out sick with Covid. This book takes place in 2020 through 2021 and Holly is understandably scared silly of her business partner and friend maybe dying. Difficult conditions under which to run a P.I. company solo. Secondly – and this one’s the real kicker – Holly’s own Mom DID just die of Covid and Holly is supposed to be on leave and grieving! Their relationship was difficult and toxic, sure. But still.

Despite all this, something in Penny Dahl’s voice…

Holly takes the case.

As it turns out, Bonnie isn’t the only strange disappearance in the area. There are others. Professor Castro from the local college English department. An adolescent boy with the nickname Stinky. A janitor who lives in a trailer park and is a strict vegan. The list goes on. Nothing connects these disappearances except their rough location.

Are these absences actually connected? Is there a monster roaming the streets, gobbling up wayward souls? Holly HAS dealt with real-life supernatural beasts before so it’s entirely possible… You’ll have to read it to find out!

My Take

So. I did enjoy Holly for the most part. There’s very few authors that can make me brow-sweaty levels of anxious like Stephen King. One of the main characters dances a little too close to the truth of the matter towards the end of the book, unbeknownst to her of course, and then decides to go on a jog. All by herself. In a neighborhood known for strange disappearances. I channeled my inner Cleveland Brown at that moment:

“No, no, no, no, no!”

The monsters of the piece are weird, creepy and eerily realistic.

Having said that, I have some issues. As is common in Stephen King’s horror novels, we get informed early on who the monsters are and roughly what they’re about. We’re in the know, our heroes aren’t. Dramatic irony. It can lead to fun, emotional reactions like the one above. But we find out so early that the entire book, really, is watching Holly play catch-up. This is a mystery story more than it is a horror novel and that does take some of the fun out of it. Every new clue Holly discovers is something we’re already clued in on and so instead of going on a journey of discovery, we’re mostly left wondering when the antagonists of the piece will realize it’s all about to fall apart.

The other thing is, and there’s no gentle way to put it, this is the most politically charged book I’ve read in a while. To the point where (in the Audible version, anyway. Honestly not sure re: the printed or ebook versions.) the author has to make a note at the end explaining why. It’s set in 2020 and 2021 primarily, so we’re not only dealing with the Covid 19 pandemic but the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. (Of course the name is changed in the book which I feel was a great choice. But we all understand what is being talked about, really.) Every person Holly interacts with has an opinion on the mask and vaccination mandates. And we get to hear all about it. Each and every time. And there’s a certain linearity about it – people we’re intended to sympathize with are pro mask and up to date on their shots and boosters. People who may still be helpful but are on the less sympathetic side of the spectrum? “It’s all a hoax, you know.” Most of these are visibly or verbally pro Trump.

To be 100% clear, I agree with King on almost everything politically. Holly too. I was happy to follow the various public safety mandates because… well. I care about public safety. I want to do my part to keep my community safe. I still have a fine selection of masks ready for action should their service be required and my vaccination card never leaves my wallet.

And if the above paragraph annoyed you? Holly might not be the book for you.

It did get tedious and cut the tension of the story for me and to reiterate; it’s all stuff I agree with. I love On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and in that book, King stresses that story comes first. Themes and messaging are fine but should never come at the expense of story. I feel like this imperative got lost in the process of writing Holly. Because while the pandemic does have something to do with a few story beats? They’re not relevant to the mystery we’re watching Holly try to solve.

NOW with all my gripes out of the way, I did enjoy catching up with Holly, Jerome and Barbara again. I’ve enjoyed their adventures from Mr. Mercedes onward so it felt a bit like running into old friends you haven’t seen in a while. The character work in this story is still very strong – these are still well fleshed out people it’s easy to care about. As are most of the side characters we spend any amount of time with.

One kind of funny note for my fellow audiobook fans; the narrator for this one is Justine Lupe and not Will Patton who has done the reading for the Bill Hodges trilogy and for The Outsider. That’s right! Coach Yoast from Remember the Titans! I was so used to hearing him read for Holly that it was genuinely strange to hear someone else do it at first. The voice Will Patton would use for Holly was extremely distinctive with a unique meter and cadence. Having said that, Justine Lupe does a really good job! All the voices are sufficiently different to one another that you’re never lost as to who’s speaking.

All In all I do still recommend Holly. Especially if you’re a fan of the above mentioned stories she’s been a part of.

…I kind of hope he’s working on a sequel to Fairy Tale, though. THAT was an amazing story and I’d happily spend another 20 or so hours in that part of The Tower.

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.