Narrated by Seth Numrich
The most recent release from Stephen King was billed as “more of a crime novel” than the horror that is King’s main claim to fame in a promotional interview with GMA, an exciting prospect on the tails of the Mr Mercedes trilogy and 2018’s The Outsider. This is perhaps one of the most misleading descriptions I could think of for this book; in fact, the narrator promises us that this is a horror story in a refrain that reminds us as we know more later (and later, and later) we will not be having a neat resolution that leaves us with an optimistic view of the future. This is a horror story, and the horror grows as the story unspools before us.
Certainly there is a cop--Liz Dutton, a detective much less likable than Bill Hodges--and indeed, there is an abundance of crime in this, committed by mere humans and by the supernatural and by both of those things working in inexorable tandem. If you come in looking for the satisfaction of solving a good case, even Stephen King style, you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re looking for a horror story, this is the best release from King in a long time as he layers together many definitions of the word in a similar way to how he explored “haunt” in It. Fear, shock, dismay, intense dislike, disgust, an attack of extreme nervousness or anxiety, a mischievous or bad person: all of these come together in a tightly told story that becomes worse the more you think about it, each piece adding to a shattering finale.
Told in the first person through the perspective of Jamie Conklin, Seth Numrich does an outstanding job narrating a trim 256 pages (6h 32m on Audible) as Jamie leads us through his life so far with the ability to see dead people. The plot moves along quickly without following the perspective of any secondary characters in the hallmark King style, Jamie apologizing throughout for side explanations that will make more sense to us later all along the way. Numrich makes the entire journey feel like the late-night confidences of a friend over a drink (or three), balancing both the humor in the story with the parts that are incredibly ugly to look at, making this not only fantastic horror that lives up to its promise but an amazing listen that showcases audio as a storytelling method.
Fans of the multiverse will be delighted with tie-ins that are both undoubtedly intimately treasured by Constant Readers everywhere and recognizable to those newer to the fandom. The ending of this book came out of left field in the best way, all of the horror building towards a conclusion that offers no relief from the expertly-built tension in a gut-wrenching revelation with the promise of more on the horizon, leaving us to wonder what happens to Jamie...and there’s that word again...later.