The Hard Case Crime series is a wonderful idea: a mix of original and reprinted hard-boiled detective novels by some of the best writers in the field, packaged to look like lurid 1940s and 1950s thrillers. And getting Stephen King to write a new novel as part of the series was quite a coup. King is the author of record when it comes to fiction set in America in recent decades, and here he is with a noir detective story. Alas, what he actually turned in was a cozy, a sort of Jan Karon take on the hard-boiled genre. And at the end, it turns out to be rather arty - if by "arty" you mean "doesn't answer any important questions." Fresh out of journalism school, Stephanie McCann is an intern at a weekly newspaper in an obscure corner off the coast of Maine. She is writing homey features and reporting on trivial stories, but she rather enjoys it. Then a big-city reporter comes to town to gather stories about "unsolved mysteries." The paper's owner and the managing editor send him away unsatisfied, and then tell Stephanie the only real unsolved mystery on the island. The banter between the two old men provides all kinds of local color, but it also means the pace of the storytelling is glacial. It takes most of chapter one to explain why they filch the cash the big-city reporter left to pay for a meal. We're in chapter five before they start telling the story that gives the book its title. Years earlier, two high school sweethearts found a dead body on the beach. There was no identification, and only a few items found with the body gave any hope of telling where he was from. It isn't until too many chapters later, after much meandering, that the old men tell Stephanie (and us) how they found out the man was from Colorado, which led to the identification of the body. Nor do we actually care, since none of the characters do. They're only telling the story in order to explain that it's not a story at all-a conclusion with which readers will heartily agree. The real mystery: why would the editors publish a story that will only frustrate anyone looking for the kind of hard-boiled detective novel they're promised on the cover? Stephen King is a very good writer, so even when telling a non story at elaborate length he is quite readable. I would have enjoyed this piece in a magazine. It's the misleading presentation that will rankle. (Oct) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
It may be summer, but school is in for young Stephanie McCann, an intern at the Weekly Islander. Stephanie is working under the wise tutelage of David Bowie, managing editor of the Moose-Lookit Island, ME, newspaper, and its 90-year-old feature writer, Vince Teague. On a particular August afternoon, in the hours between a lobster roll lunch at the Grey Gull Restaurant and coffee shared amid slanted shafts of late-day sunlight in the Islander's office, the two men recount the tale of a body discovered on Moosie's beach more than 20 years earlier. In the course of their discussion, Dave and Vince bring Stephanie to a new understanding of the words story and mystery. Although the book may not wholly satisfy horror fans or follow the beaten path of pulp crime novels, this slim (by King standards) volume will speak to those who appreciate good storytelling and the chance to spend a relaxing afternoon on a quiet Maine island. Quintessential King; for all popular fiction collections.-Nancy McNicol, Ora Mason Branch Lib., West Haven, CT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.