This book is a group of four novellas, linked together by the theme of whether something is supernatural or of the mind, like The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs. They are also linked by the idea and perceptions of life and death.
The first one is definitely my favourite, Mr. Harrigan's Phone. A teenage boy works for a rich old man, who buys him a lottery ticket. The ticket wins and the boy buys the man a mobile 'phone. This is a very atmospheric story and is the one that reminds me of Jacob's book the most. Like most of King's work, this is being adapted for the big screen by Netflix.
The second story is unusual in that the story is told in three acts - but in reverse order. The focus is a man's short life. His life isn't actually very interesting but shows his childhood being brought up by his Jewish grandparents, the simple joys of life and the end of his life.
The third story is a sequel to a book I have not yet read, but the character here first appeared in Mr. Mercedes, a book I enjoyed. This gives the title to the set, from the phrase 'if it bleeds, it leads' meaning it is the lead story on the news or of people's interest. It centres around a terrorist attack at a school and in particular the presence of a reporter who seems to be at every major shooting or horrific event. An interesting look at how we view these types of incidents.
The final story is called Rat and is about a novelist who goes off to a remote cabin to write his book. Here he becomes ill and looks after a rat following a storm. This is a clever study of mental - and physical - health. As always with Stephen King, the stories are detailed, well formed and full of atmospheric tension. For those who like psychological suspense and of course, King fans. Recommended.
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 21 April 2020.