My sister said to me: "Do you think terrorists read novels?"
In a year where we had several terrorist attacks in Britain, this was a chilling thought. I had owned this book for two years before I got around to reading it, prompted by my sister's question, and discovered right away what she meant.
We know more or less immediately who the baddie/terrorist is and the story is told from his perspective and from the view of the retired detective who tries to outwit him. That in itself is not an original concept, and I did worry at the beginning whether this would turn out to be another one of those cop cliche stories. But this is Stephen King, the master storyteller, and the tale did not unfold that way at all.
The story starts with a gruesome mass murder involving a stolen Mercedes car and shows us how an ordinary man hides his tormented dark side. This is a psychological thriller, no doubt about it, but made even more worrying because maybe this is what these terrorists are like - brought up in dysfunctional, depraved environments. This has been my view for quite a while now, anyway. No great evil masterminds just ordinary people who need help.
The characters are well-drawn and their individual quirks are credible. The early parts about the retired detective, his mundane life, are a little drawn-out but it does improve once he is on the case. I was curious why he chose not to involve his police friends, particularly towards the end when the stakes were so high, but to rely on a teenage boy and a socially awkward middle-aged woman (he does explain why but it still seems an odd choice to me).
King has an easy writing style so the story flows well, and he does not go off on tangent as is his wont on occasion. There is plenty of suspense making this a great read. The ending is a tad far-fetched but the 'baddie' character makes up for that. I really looked forward to reading about him and his mind games. Not King's most original or best novel, but definitely not his worst. Great dark fiction.
Other books by stephen King: Pet Sematary, Gerald's Game, The Dark Half.
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