When reviewing a new Stephen King book, you can only really compare such rich work to that of his own. There is no other writer, past or present, quite like him. King is the gold standard, the literary bar, a unique category. A problem other authors would no doubt like to have. If It Bleeds returns to a format we’ve missed in recent years from King, the short story collection.
Mr Harrigan’s Phone: Buried with his recent love, his iPhone, Mr Harrigan dies a respected and rich man, but not overly loved. Craig will miss his company though, having previously been paid the princely sum of $5 pay an hour to read aloud to the old man and do a few odd jobs about the house. Inheriting enough money from Mr Harrigan to pay for his future education, Craig is one super grateful nine year old. Calling the messagebank of his former employer and friend comforts Craig as he grieves, even though he knows he’ll never receive an answer from a dead guy. Then the first text arrives.
The Life of Chuck: The world is about to end and all anyone can think about is Chuck. His face is everywhere, only no one knows he is. Or perhaps was? Chuck loves to dance, and he danced well for all of his thirty-nine years. Not long enough on this earth for sure, but a goodly amount of time to make an impact on his fellow man. Chuck’s family always knew when bad things were coming, and perhaps so did young Chuck.
If It Bleeds: For King fans, the hook for If it Bleeds is that it features another outing of Holly Gibney, owner of Finders Keepers, a detective agency. (If you’ve been watching The Outsider on Netflix, same universe). Holly’s afternoon treat of her favourite television show is interrupted for a breaking news broadcast – there has been yet another US school tragedy. The journalist reporting from the scene seems to be a little… off. First on the scene, first to present. He’s done this before.
Rat: Giving himself that one last shot to deliver the book he knows he has in him, Drew heads out to the family cabin with grim determination. Falling sick and needing to bunker down against a humdinger of a North Eastern stormfront wasn’t part of Drew’s original plan, but it does prove fruitful to the development of his Western. The price Drew needs to pay to complete his life’s dream of becoming an author though proves out to be steep and deadly. Nothing comes cheap.
This was the book I needed for the time that we are in. I often save King novels, like some of you might hoard up good wine, for times of great need. A global pandemic seems as good a time as any to crack the covers and dive in. Written with King’s customary warmth and great understanding of what it is that makes us all tick, If It Bleeds is a one weekend compulsive read that’ll comfort anyone who needs the sage wisdom of everyone’s Uncle Stevie right about now.
Stephen King has been churning out the best sellers since the early 1970’s. Carrie, his first commercial success, though his fourth complete novel, was published in 1973. If it Bleeds features four unrelated short stories that will trot its readers up gloriously twisted dark paths of possibility, suggesting as always that there is more out there than what we choose to see.
The last story about wishing you hadn’t shaken the hand of a man with a hacking cough… spooky…
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Elly (Maike Wetzel) – book review
- Rules for Perfect Murders (Peter Swanson) – book review
- Can You See Her (S.E. Lynes) – book review
Australian Crime Fiction began in 2006 to provide a database of crime authors and books from Australasia in the crime genre. Now featuring book reviews, the site is dedicated to crime fiction and thrillers, with a heavy emphasis on Australian and New Zealand content.