Hard Case Crime (March 2, 2021)
Reviewed by Carson Buckingham
Word was, Stephen King was returning to better days with this one.
This book was a retread… a lazy, predictable, unoriginal mash-up of The Sixth Sense, Ghost, and Odd Thomas, but poorly done. No surprises, not much happening, and the one twist at the end read like it was dropped in as an afterthought, and really didn’t have much of a bearing on anything because there had been no buildup to it; and so, instead of shocking me, it made me shake my head.
The thing I objected to most was the voice of the teenaged protagonist. No present-day kids use the 50s slang that King vomits upon his readers. I mean, “Daddy-O?” Come on. The kid’s dialogue was more like what a disconnected, 70-something man thought a modern teen would sound like. King also doesn’t really do much to develop his teen protagonist as his central character. He mentions, in passing, his friends, but nothing about girls, or boys, as romantic interests, nothing about social media or video games or going out and doing things with these “friends” who are barely mentioned. As a matter of fact, the kid doesn’t do or really even think about anything a normal kid his age would. King has made him bland and uninteresting. What’s up with that?
Furthermore, classifying this book as “Hard Case Crime” is completely off the mark. Noir—hardboiled detective stories–are generally classified as “Hard Crime.” Think Mickey Spillane. Think James Ellroy. Think Raymond Chandler. In this book, not only was the crime incidental, but the author had to continually remind the reader, in so many words, that they were reading a horror story! Does he think his reading public is so moronic that they’ll forget? Or is this a case of magical thinking, in that, ‘If I say it enough, it will be true?” I’m betting on the latter.
Either way, if you’re looking for a good shiver, this ain’t it. His disappointing, formulaic writing made me yearn for the good old days of ‘Salem’s Lot, The Shining, and his early short story collections. You won’t find a whisper of that style in this book.
And one final note. Mr. King… you really need to keep your political opinions to yourself. I read a book for enjoyment and escape, not to be dragged into your private bloviation about the world at large. I simply don’t care what you think about such things, and making a character a villain in your story simply because they hold conservative views is just obnoxious. A villain is a character whose evil actions or motives are important to the plot—political leanings have nothing to do with it, and it comes off as a gratuitous slap, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Oh, and it might be a good idea to dial back on the self-referential callbacks in your work too. That is also annoying and smacks of an unattractively large ego.
The only saving grace this novel had was that it was a quick read.
No stars. Do not recommend.
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