When 2021 kick off, some friends and I decided to form a book club (my first one ever) and pick one book per month we would all read and then get on a zoom call to discuss it. This was particularly exciting for me because I am not prone to get out of my literary comfort zone of Fantasy and Mystery, so this gave me a way to experience novels I would normally not pick for myself (except when we’ll get to my month, but that’s for another day) .
Our book pick for February was Later, by Stephen King. I have read a couple of Stephen King novels in years past and while classics like It, and Christine were interesting reads, I never naturally seek out horror novels in general. It’s just not as fun as Fantasy or Mystery to me. But then I realized that this particular book is part of an imprint of hardboiled cime novels called Hard Case Crime. The series recreates the flavour of the paperback crime novels of the 1940s and 1950s. Many authors have been features in this series, and Stephen King’s Later is #147. This was my first read within this particular series and I have to say that I was curious to see if King writing something that was a bit more police-investigation driven rather than his usual horror tropes would grab would appeal to me.
The story of Later resolves around a young boy named Jamie, who from his earliest days, has been able to see dead people. Only for a few days after their deaths mind you, but he can see them and even talk with them. More than that, they have to tell him the truth no matter what he asks them. Jamie lives alone with his mom and nobody other than them knows about his secret. With this simple, yet intriguing premise at its core, the story itself was very intriguing from the get-go. The pace of the story was also very solid, as is often the case when written using first person perspective.
Of course, nothing stays simple forever, and soon enough, Jamie finds himself entangled with police investigations, a serial killer’s ghost, and more people knowing about his unusual ability. The main plot of the story was compelling enough to grab my interest and keep it until the end, though this is where things fell off for me. The first 90% of the book makes you think and guess about where this is all going, or how things will resolve themselves for Jamie, and the end of the book just didn’t deliver on it’s own potential.
Overall, I can’t say that this was a bad read, because I enjoyed myself for the most of the ride, but as I closed the book after reading the ending, I felt unsatisfied. I wanted more to come out of this. It would have been a different feeling had this been part of a series or if some sort of sequel was in the works, but as a stand-alone story, while this started out as a very promising story, the climax fell flat and lacked a satisfying conclusion.