In his latest suspenser, the prolific King (Joyland, 2013, etc.) returns to the theme of the scary car—except this one has a scary driver who’s as loony but logical unto himself as old Jack Torrance from The Shining.
It’s an utterly American setup: Over here is a line of dispirited people waiting to get into a job fair, and over there is a psycho licking his chops at the easy target they present; he aims a car into the crowd and mows down a bunch of innocents, killing eight and hurting many more. The car isn’t his. The malice most certainly is, and it’s up to world-weary ex-cop Bill Hodges to pull himself up from depression and figure out the identity of the author of that heinous act. That author offers help: He sends sometimes-taunting, sometimes–sympathy-courting notes explaining his actions. (“I must say I exceeded my own wildest expectations,” he crows in one, while in another he mourns, “I grew up in a physically and sexually abusive household.”) With a cadre of investigators in tow, Hodges sets out to avert what is certain to be an even greater trauma, for the object of his cat-and-mouse quest has much larger ambitions, this time involving a fireworks show worthy of Fight Club. And that’s not his only crime: He's illegally downloaded “the whole Anarchist Cookbook from BitTorrent,” and copyright theft just may be the ultimate evil in the King moral universe. King’s familiar themes are all here: There's craziness in spades and plenty of alcohol and even a carnival, King being perhaps the most accomplished coulrophobe at work today. The storyline is vintage King, too: In the battle of good and evil, good may prevail—but never before evil has caused a whole lot of mayhem.
The scariest thing of all is to imagine King writing a happy children’s book. This isn’t it: It’s nicely dark, never predictable and altogether entertaining.