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Stephen King is my favorite contemporary writer. The love I have for his work started at the very beginning with CARRIE and has never let up. While I enjoy some of his books more than others, I am proud to call myself one of his faithful readers. Fortunately, his unique style of writing and storytelling shows no signs of letting up.

HOLLY is a wonder --- a novel that millions of King fans have been waiting for him to pen. Private investigator Holly Gibney was introduced to readers as a standout character from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy. She then appeared in the supernatural thriller THE OUTSIDER and a novella from the collection IF IT BLEEDS.

"Despite the absence of any overt supernatural elements, HOLLY is indeed a horror novel and a thriller all wrapped up in one --- and a superior effort at that."

This book is all Holly’s, and I couldn’t be happier about that. I knew I was in for a wild ride when the story kicks off on my birthday, October 17th, in 2012. Jorge Castro, a writer-in-residence at Bell College, is out on his morning run. He comes across a pair of former colleagues, the elderly and now-retired Rodney and Emily Harris. Like an event from the life of serial killer Ted Bundy, they appear to be having difficulty getting Rodney’s wheelchair into their van. When Jorge steps in to help, it will be his last heroic act as a syringe is plunged into his neck and knocks him out.

Jorge wakes up in the basement of the Harris house in what appears to be a cage. He is given limited water and bizarre food to eat, such as raw and bloody pieces of liver. He has no idea why this is happening or what might transpire next. All he hears is Emily refer to him by an ethnic slur after one of his feedings. King does a great job of not revealing the meaning behind this shocking incarceration, but you just have the feeling that when he does allow you to peek behind the veil of evil, it will be more than worth the wait.

Meanwhile, at the Finders Keepers detective agency, Holly is dealing with the death of her mother from COVID and looks to throw herself into a new case to escape her grief. She is hired by Penny Dahl, whose adult daughter, Bonnie, has gone missing. While Holly initially holds out hope that she will find Bonnie safe and sound, she knows that as time goes on, the more likely outcome will be discovering her corpse after an abduction or a violent murder.

Holly has no idea just how close to the truth she is. Readers learn in a narrative set in the brief past that Bonnie was yet another victim of Rodney and Emily. We already have taken a trip down memory lane with a couple of other kidnappings done at their hands, but it is through Bonnie’s experience with them that we finally realize what they are all about. I will not reveal that here, but trust me when I say that it is unexpected and horrific in a way that only Stephen King would be capable of conceiving.

During her investigation, Holly takes all the right steps and follows every lead as far as it can take her. But the process is so slow-going that Penny quickly loses patience and threatens to cut off her funding. Holly takes this case right up to the point where she is directly on the radar of the Harrises, and not in a good way. All I will say is that Holly will have the opportunity to experience what Bonnie and all the other victims did. If she can escape with her life, she will have quite a tale to tell.

Despite the absence of any overt supernatural elements, HOLLY is indeed a horror novel and a thriller all wrapped up in one --- and a superior effort at that. Readers will be cringing in terror one moment and cheering loudly for Holly the next as Stephen King takes us on yet another classic scary ride just in time for the Halloween season.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on September 8, 2023

by Stephen King

  • Publication Date: September 5, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Horror, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 1668016133
  • ISBN-13: 9781668016138