“Reality is thin ice, but most people skate on it their whole lives and never fall through until the very end. We did fall through, but we helped each other out. We’re still helping each other.”
Welcome to the Supernatural Zone. Not Twilight Zone since Jordan Peele destroyed it with his political agenda. I’ve picked up this book in Audio format thinking it’ll make a great read, much like Elevation did. And it worked in a way and it didn’t work so well in other ways.
“People are blind to explanations that lie outside their perception of reality.”
I loved the premise of the book. What if you had a gruesome murder of two children, a lot of evidence about who did it (witnesses, DNA samples from the semen found on the children thighs, blood samples on the stick that was used to sexually assault them, discarded shirts and belts and even more witnesses of the blood-soaked man coming out from the woods). What if this solid evidence was then disputed by the assailant – who brings forth not just an alibi but a room full of people able to testify to their whereabouts and dated video footage. As no person can be in two places, the police are now stuck with a mystery instead of a clear-cut case.
They decide to go with the evidence they have in hand and they charge Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls with the murder. Terry gets shot on the way to the courthouse by one of the older brothers of one of the boys who got murdered and dies as well.
But this is not where the story ends. It’s mostly the beginning.
King seems to have been inspired by the Harlan Coben style of thrillers whose hooks generally revolve around circumstances that seem impossible. (In fact, Uncle Stevie even acknowledges this by actually having Coben himself be a plot point in the book.) And this works for a while as King builds up the scenario with an intriguing mix of clues and witnesses that both absolutely prove that Terry must be the murderer while also making it utterly impossible for him to have done it.
What Uncle Stevie did here is to create the puzzle part which he adds layer after layer to it, but then he essentially just says “Oh, yeah. It was a supernatural monster. And now here’s a completely different book about trying to catch it.”
So first half of the book – 5/5 stars.
Second half of the book – 2/5 stars.
In the second half, we find out more about the monster who feeds on children’s flesh and their blood, about a Mexican Chupacabra of sorts and Holly from Finders Keepers (if you read Mr. Mercedes you know who that is) is called in. She will spend her entire time investigating the murder in a very clean and efficient way – and somewhat annoying too.
Holly will spend half her time remembering Bill Hodges, who was her partner and lover, and almost gushing in admiration of his past deeds. I’ve read the previous two books and this type of admiration is unwarranted. The guy was mostly an ass-hole.
The Good Bits:
I love how King taps into the minds of everyday people and families. He creates horror stories out of the mundane, out of small town people living small town lives, and out of questions we’ve probably all wondered about– is there life after death? What if you could go back in time? And, in this case, what if all the evidence of a crime points to someone who couldn’t possibly have done it? What if you were accused of a crime you didn’t commit?
I absolutely loved (if I can call it that) the exploration of the devastation that the death of a small child can bring a family. The death of the mother from a heart attack, the child who goes on to shoot the prime suspect. The father who decides to hang himself in a tree outside of his house and mid way through the suicide decides he does not want to die and struggles to break free. That was AWESOME. (Pure Stephen King)
I liked the discussions about how reliable DNA is and about tampering effects on it.
“There’s… a force for good in the world. That’s something else I believe. Partly so I don’t go crazy when I think of all the awful things that happen, I guess, but…also…well the evidence seems to bear it out, wouldn’t you say? Not just here but everywhere. There’s some force that tries to restore the balance.”
The Bad Bits:
Mr. King struggles with writing things with technology in them. None of the detectives on the case try to Google the name of the restaurant found on a piece of paper and spend extensive time looking it up. The introduction of Finders Keepers people (which made this book the third in the series) also didn’t do any wonders for me. Holly is unlikable and mostly abrasive in communications. She also accepts compliments like a 1920’s maid who’s never seen a man and the backhanded sexism is a bit much to bare.
“You’re a hell of a detective, Holly.” She thanked him with her eyes lowered, and in the tentative voice of a woman who doesn’t know quite what to do with compliments. “You’re kind to say that.”
The details about the creature were taken from folklore and from watching an old Mexican horror snuff about some masked women who were justice fighters.
The other bad bit I found a bit disconcerting was how the witness interviews pertaining to the crime sound the same. We have a range of people, from a 9 year old girl (and her mom), to a mid-30s (I’m guessing) Ex-con, ex-addict (are you ever really an ex at that though?) bouncer- excuse me, “Security Specialist” or whatever, to a elderly man, and an elderly woman, to a Native American woman cab driver. And every single one of them sound exactly the same. Not just the content, but the WAY OF SPEAKING. The way of being so attentively helpful as to come across as almost servile. “Am I doing it right? I’m not in trouble, am I?” Like a bunch of dogs expecting their master to kick them, and doing everything they can to BE A GOOD DOG.
ALL of them. Even the kid. Exactly the same.
“Doesn’t look like a monster, does he?” “They rarely do.”