Standalone or series
First time reading this author?
Why I picked this
It’s Stephen King. I have read and loved Stephen King books for most of my life and as long as I have the disposable income to do it I will continue to pre-order all his books as soon as they are announced.
Review copy or purchase
What it’s about
Jamie can see dead people. It’s not something his mum likes to talk about, but it sometimes comes in handy like when her client dies without completing his long-awaited novel. Unfortunately other people want to use Jamie’s ability too, and not all of them are alive.
Choosing my favourite book would be impossible. It changes with my mood, the timing of the reading, other events which chime with something I’ve read. Choosing my favourite author on the other hand is simple – Stephen King all day long.
There is no other author I have ever read who gives me the same confidence every single time I pick up a new book that I am in for a good time. The book blurb barely matters, whether it’s a horror story, a supernatural tale, or a mystery, or in all likelihood a combination of the three. None of that changes how I’m feeling when I crack open a fresh Stephen King story. It’s a sense of comfort and welcome – strange given the often unsettling and scary moments. The knowledge that I’m entering the creation of a world-class storyteller and I’m just happy to be along for the ride and see where he’s going this time.
I’m worried this sounds like his books are soft or predictable. That is absolutely not the case. It’s all about trust. Most other authors, even other ones I’ll automatically pre-order as soon as the publication date goes live, come with a risk of disappointment. When reading I’m often thinking ahead, about the plot yes, but also about how easily this could be a bad book if it just takes the wrong turn. With Stephen King I can immerse myself with utter confidence, like jumping out of a plane with an absolute guarantee you’re going to be alive and well when you land, or an edge of your seat rollercoaster with a 100% safety record for all time. Or, perhaps more appropriately an intricate ghost house with a tour guide, who’ll always lead you back out into the light, but first I’ll just show you this part over in the darkest corner …
One of the things which helps create this sense is the blending of story worlds. Literary Easter eggs are a regular feature of King novels, references to characters, places and concepts which cross stories. Each one feeling like a nudge and a wink from the author as if to say “Hey, Constant Reader, I know you’ll catch this.” Making regular readers feel a sense of belonging without excluding new readers.
Later is a perfect example of this, with references to Roanoke, Croatoan and deadlights which link to It and The Colarado Kid (a previous Hard Case Crime novel). It doesn’t matter if you haven’t read either of these, the words are wholly explained to the context of this plot, but if you’re in the know that’s the equivalent of the intricate greeting of a lifelong King fan.
Later tells the story of Jamie Conklin, an ordinary kid who happens to be able to see dead people. Sometimes it’s scary, like the cyclist near Central Park who had been hit by a car. The body was covered up, but the ghost or projection or whatever it is Jamie sees bears the same injuries and has no cover to protect the pre-schooler from seeing it all.
It can also be gentle like his next door neighbours. When Professor Burkett is grieving for his wife she speaks to Jamie, talking about the little things she’ll miss now she’s gone and telling him where she put her rings which Professor Burkett worries are lost.
While Jamie’s mum tries to ignore his skill by not talking about it, when her biggest selling client, the author of a bestselling fantasy series, dies before completing the final instalment, she drafts in Jamie to ask his ghost for the key plot points so she can finish the novel and keep her agent’s share of the advance.
Unfortunately his mum isn’t the only one who sees the opportunity in Jamie’s gift. A living and breathing threat wants to take advantage of what Jamie can do, while Jamie also finds that while dead people are no threat there’s something else which really does want to do him harm.
Tense, spooky, utterly compelling, another brilliant tale from the world of Stephen King.