Book Review: Billy Summers by Stephen King @StephenKing @ScribnerBooks

Billy Summers
Stephen King
Scribner, August 2021
ISBN 978-1-9821-7361-6
Hardcover

I’ve been a Stephen King fan for a long time but over the past few years I’ve drifted away from reading his work. I’m not too sure if it was simply because I wasn’t altogether fond of his darker novels.  I used to say I’d rather read the scary stuff than watch it in a movie or television series, but I’ve found I’m not enjoying reading anything too dark with too much graphic scenes of murder and mayhem.

With a title like Billy Summers  (everyone knows a guy named Billy who can generally be a friendly helpful individual and of course Summers gives the impression of a warm, lazy, easy-going guy who is well-liked).  And after reading a few positive reviews and comments regarding King’s latest offering, I became intrigued and decided to check it out.  I’m so glad I did.

Billy Summers is an intriguing character. He’s a hired killer and has been for a number of years.  He’s also a decorated Iraq war vet and one of the best snipers in the world. So says the inside flap on the hardcover.  He has one rule, however, when it comes to a proposed victim, he must be a truly bad guy. Billy has been paid well for his skill and for the fact that he manages to successfully slip away unnoticed from these ‘jobs’.

Getting on in years Billy has plans to retire, but after much thought he accepts this latest and, as far as he’s concerned, last job.  There is much planning and possibly weeks of waiting.  Billy moves to an apartment while he waits for final instructions re the ‘job’ and spends his time reading, a favourite pastime. Told to keep a low profile he soon gets bored, and decides to pass the time writing his own life story, but changing his name.

So there are two stories now running parallel.  Slowly but surely you grow to like and even admire this man, learning how his early life played out and influenced the choices he made, adding a depth of understanding to just how he became a hired killer.

But Billy is also a careful, thoughtful, and smart guy who begins to doubt the motives and plans of the men who have hired him.  Billy has tended over the years to cultivate the impression he is a quiet guy and one who is a little simple-minded. And as an added precaution, decides to make plans of his own, a backup, for when the job is done.

And there’s more! Much more!  And  if you want to find out how Billy fares, my advice is to grab a copy and read Billy Summers, one of King‘s best novels to date….

Trust me you won’t regret it…

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, January 2022.

Book Review: Gone to Darkness by Barbara Nickless @BarbaraNickless

Gone to Darkness
Sydney Rose Parnell #4
Barbara Nickless
Thomas and Mercer, June 2020
ISBN 978-1542092869
Trade Paperback

Sydney Parnell is the youngest homicide detective in the Denver’s Major Crime Unit. She’s an Iraqi war vet and has also worked as a railway cop along with her K9 partner Clyde, a Belgian Malinois who was by her side during her time in Iraq.

Sydney is meeting up with another officer to investigate a possible jumper from a train. When she arrives she finds Officer Heinrich unconscious and bleeding from a head injury. Sydney calls for back up and an ambulance and while she waits, she and Clyde take a look around. Nothing seems amiss but a fog descends which renders the scene rather eerie. Near the tracks she spots a medallion smeared with blood. Further searching uncovers paper clips shaped like a cross.

Her gut instinct is telling her something strange is going on. A Forensic team is sent out to the area and Sydney insists that the train that recently passed through the area be searched. During the search the mutilated body of a young man is found.

The victim turns out to be well known among local graphic artists using his talents to draw superhero comics. He was also known to the immigrant workers and was a member of group calling themselves The Superior Gentlemen.

The investigation seems to be getting nowhere and reluctantly Sydney reconnects with another case she’s been assigned regarding the rapes of women in nursing homes. DNA collected from the train matches that found at the rapes, a strong indication the two cases are connected.

The plot is strong, complex and intriguing. Sydney is a likeable well rounded character. I really liked her connection with Clyde, her dog, as well as her relationship with her mentor, Detective Len Bandoni. Some of the descriptions of victims are harsh and brutal and may be a problem for some readers.

This is the fourth novel from Barbara Nickless in this series. I haven’t read the others but I had no problem keeping up.

All in all … A great read!

Respectfully submitted,

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, June 2020.

Book Review: The Bone Orchard by Paul Doiron

The Bone OrchardThe Bone Orchard
Mike Bowditch Mysteries #5
Paul Doiron
Minotaur Books, July 2014
ISBN:  978-1-250-03488-5
Hardcover

With this, his fifth novel, Paul Doiron seems poised to join the few outstanding authors, headed IMHO by William Kent Krueger, who bring to vivid life the landscape, beauty and inhabitants (both the human and wildlife variety) of the northernmost parts of the United States, the states bordering Canada – – a lofty perch, to be sure. In this instance, that means Maine, ‘the most rural state in the country.’ The protagonist is Mike Bowditch, 27 years old and a former game warden [who in Maine have all the powers of state troopers], now working as a hunting and fishing guide in the North Woods. The book opens in a rainy month of May, when a tragedy has just taken place: Mike’s friend, Jimmy Gammon, scion of a powerful and politically connected family, not long after returning home from Afghanistan with horrific injuries, has been fatally shot in a “suicide by cop” scenario. To make matters worse, one of the two cops involved is Mike’s friend and mentor, Sgt. Kathy Frost.

In a state with the highest percentage of Afghanistan war vets in the nation, sympathies are decidedly against the cop, who says she acted in self-defense. When Mike goes to Kathy’s house to offer his support, he comes upon a scene where a sniper has shot Kathy as she exited her house, leaving her grievously wounded and clinging to life, and Mike himself is wounded when he interrupts the encounter. Mike, who has two such incidents in his past where he had no choice but to fire his weapon in self-defense with lethal results, is determined to track down the perpetrator.

Mike had served for 3 years as a game warden but had resigned his position two months earlier, a decision he second-guesses on nearly a daily basis.  His former colleagues are wary of trusting him now, making his investigation that much more difficult.  In a well-plotted tale, the author makes Mike a very human and conflicted protagonist, about whom the reader comes to feel great empathy.  I loved the writing, e.g., “I’d never believed that our destinies are predetermined.  If you look back on your life, you might see what looks like a meaningful progression, but it’s no different from gazing at the moon and seeing a man’s face.  Just because you perceive a pattern doesn’t mean it’s really there.”  The novel is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2015.