Where else could I turn, but to my favourite ‘Dark’ writer, Stephen King.
This is a collection of four stories:
“Mr Harrigan’s Phone”
“The Life of Chuck”
“If It Bleeds”.
With Stephen King books, often the telling is more interesting than the plot. That is not a terrible thing, while a talented storyteller can jerk life into a weak story, a great story can always struggle under a weak storyteller which makes for an uneven read in If It Bleeds.
The first novella, ‘Mr Harrigan’s Phone’, is the lead character story that King does so well. It transitions from kicking off with a nostalgic melancholy in the first few pages, to something darker and thoughtful at the end. Its ideas and predictions about high-tech and business seem crammed into the story, the reader is left to decide if it was all coincidence. There is an exciting twist at the end.
Somehow the stories are unlevel. Interesting, but odd. The Life of Chuck is an apocalyptic yarn, classic in its understatement and weird in its tricky messages.
Tale two is rather strange, and interesting in its way. The closing ghost story is so King-like, you don’t know what you are reading until the end. I’m not sure if they are connected, or supposed to be. Does it matter? I guess not.
If It Bleeds, the longest and the strongest of the bunch. Holly Gibney steps up and takes the role of the protagonist, and the opening scenes of the school bombing catch your interest. You are then caught, as in genuine King stories. Caught between heroine and villain. There is a sense of real evil, Holly sets herself perfectly, neatly mirrored by the interplay between Holly and her mother. On to the ending – it was perfect.
The last story, Rat, has its gory moments. A mix of genres. I enjoyed it, even as I kept shaking my head in wonder, as I said earlier, the plot is so often secondary to the narration for King.
If It Bleeds proves the Mr King knows how to write, even if he has strayed from what he used to write.
This is the official blurb. Newspeople have a saying: ‘If it bleeds, it leads’. And a bomb at Albert Macready Middle School is guaranteed to lead any bulletin.
Holly Gibney of the Finders Keepers detective agency is working on the case of a missing dog – and on her own need to be more assertive – when she sees the footage on TV. But when she tunes in again, to the late-night report, she realises there is something not right about the correspondent first on the scene. So begins ‘If It Bleeds’, a stand-alone sequel to the number one bestselling The Outsider featuring the incomparable Holly on her first solo case – and also the riveting title story in Stephen King’s brilliant new collection.
Dancing alongside are three more wonderful long stories from this ‘formidably versatile author’ (The Sunday Times) – ‘Mr Harrigan’s Phone’, ‘The Life of Chuck’ and ‘Rat’. All four display the richness of King’s storytelling with grace, humour, horror and breathtaking suspense. A fascinating Author’s Note gives us a wonderful insight into the origin of each story and the writer’s unparalleled imagination.
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