Book Review: Holly by Stephen King

FIFTY+SA Arts Reviewer, Dave Bradley, reviews Holly, the chilling new masterwork from the No. 1 Sunday Times bestseller, Stephen King.

The irrepressible King follows up last year’s overwritten Fairy Tale with the first story entirely devoted to his beloved private detective, sorry, investigator Holly Gibney, who has so far appeared in the ‘Bill Hodges Trilogy’ (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, End Of Watch), The Outsider and the novella If It Bleeds, from his anthology of the same name.

Stephen has declared his great love for Holly, whose exploits recall this writer’s crime tales from back in the early 1970s, before he became so associated with horror and darkness. But that’s not to say that Holly is your typical gumshoe type: she’s plagued with self-doubt, notably eccentric and still seriously uneasy in social situations, but the late Hodges taught her well and she’s got her idiosyncrasies under control. Almost.

Taking place mostly in 2021 (although we do sometimes flash back), this finds Holly trying to keep the Finders Keepers business going during the pandemic. We begin with her watching her anti-vaxxer Mom’s funeral via Zoom, and then she’s called by Penny Dahl, whose daughter Bonnie has gone missing under suspicious circumstances.

Holly’s haunted by the events of the previous books, misses Bill terribly, and keeps finding out awful truths about her late mother, but she still works hard to find out what happened to Bonnie. However, King structures the story so that we have little doubt where this young woman is: she’s surely been kidnapped by a pair of elderly but monstrous academics for whom abduction and murder are only the beginning.

Indeed, these villains are amongst the nastiest in King’s recent books: they’re racists, cannibals and (gasp!) Republicans. And they do truly ghastly things despite arthritis, sciatica, and other health conditions.

It’s obvious, too, that King really loves Holly, and that this won’t be her last hurrah. After all, “There’s no end to evil.”

Hachette Australia: Hodder & Stoughton, RRP $34.99 (paperback)

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