Murder in the First Chapter
Morris Bellamy was obsessed with writer John Rothstein who hadn’t written for over 20 years even though his readers were begging for new episodes about Rothstein’s most famous character, Jimmy Gold. Morris, with the help of two of his cronies, killed Rothstein, and the three walked away with the contents of Rothstein’s safe - thousands of dollars in cash plus dozens of notebooks of unpublished drafts and possibly completed works of Rothstein, never released to the public. The murder was never solved. Morris considered it necessary to kill his two cohorts also, in case they might squeal to the cops in negotiation if they ever got into trouble for another offense.
Dollar Bills - Pixabay
Morris put the money and the manuscripts in an old trunk and buried it under a tree in the woods behind his house. He remembered an old acquaintance, Andy Halliday, who ran a somewhat shady business, dealing in first editions and autographed manuscripts, some of which had been stolen. He spoke to Andy briefly but Andy thought it was too soon and too hot to deal with Rothstein’s work at that time. Shortly thereafter, Morris was accused of raping a woman while he was in a drunken stupor and was sent to prison for life.
Some thirty years later, a teenager named Pete Saubers uncovered the old trunk sticking out from under a tree in a field behind his house - the same house, incidentally, that Morris Bellamy had lived in many years ago. Pete and his younger sister Tina were having a hard time, having to listen to their parents, Tom and Linda, arguing all the time. Money is short. Tom had been injured when he attended a job fair looking for work. A crazed driver drove into the crowd waiting in line, maiming Tom and killing several other job seekers.
Pete’s first thought was that his parents could use the money, but he did not want them to know that he found it. Instead, he devised a plan to send money to his parents anonymously in order to make everyone’s life a little easier. What to do with the manuscripts however?
This dilemma takes Pete down a slippery path, especially since Morris Bellamy has been granted parole finally. Morris’ first act of business is to visit the tree behind the house where he had lived to dig up his buried treasure, only to find that the trunk is now empty. His curiosity leads him to finger Pete as the holder of what Morris believes belongs to him, and him alone.
Pete learns about Andy Halliday and determines to negotiate with him about the manuscripts he is holding. Andy believes that he can coerce the teenager to take a small amount of money, but Pete resolves to stand up to the dealer. The return of Morris Bellamy to town adds another problem. When Pete enters Halliday’s shop, Halliday’s body is on the floor in a pool of blood. Morris may be up to his old tricks again.
Another Triumph by Stephen King
Stephen King - Wikimedia
For those who have not read King’s novel “Mr. Mercedes,” the introduction of ex-cop Bill Hodges will seem a distraction from the events at hand. However, “Finders Keepers” is a sequel to “Mr. Mercedes,” where Bill Hodges is first introduced. The two novels are part of a Hodges trilogy to be completed by “The Suicide Prince.” Oddly, the crazed killing at the job fair was the opening scene in “Mr. Mercedes,” a ploy that only Stephen King could pull off.
King appears to be obsessed himself with the relationship between a writer and his fans, as he demonstrated in an earlier novel “Misery.” We can only conclude that he has learned this first-hand from his huge following who undoubtedly contact him, seeking a relationship and/or inquiring about present and future novels.
This was my first venture into reading Stephen King. My Book Club, for some reason, frowns on murder mysteries, so they are never on our agenda. I may have to change that practice by proposing “Finders Keepers” when we meet to discuss next year’s book choices.