Billy Summers – Stephen King

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Billy Summers is a man in a room with a gun. He’s a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So what could possibly go wrong?

How about everything.

This spectacular can’t-put-it-down novel is part war story, part love letter to small town America and the people who live there, and it features one of the most compelling and surprising duos in King fiction, who set out to avenge the crimes of an extraordinarily evil man. It’s about love, luck, fate, and a complex hero with one last shot at redemption.

After getting stitched up a couple of years back paying full price for King’s book ‘Elevation‘ – a novella I read in about an hour – I’ve made a point of checking the page count before buying, thankfully it was worth the money.

I won’t go into the story for the sake of spoilers, only saying that when I thought I was nearing the logical end of the book, I was actually only about 40% through and another part of the story starts to unfold.

 What I will add is that this book, like so many in the King canon, is also about writing – our hero’s cover story is that he is an aspiring novelist whose agent has procured office space for him to work on his book. Office space that just happens to overlook the courthouse steps on which Billy is to shoot a bad man. Since he has time to kill, and to maintain his cover, Billy starts to write, a work of fiction that quickly turn to autobiography. And so we have two stories here – one is the tale of a sniper-for-hire’s last job, the other is his backstory. It is hard to say which is most compelling, especially when you learn that Billy’s story is of abusive parents, a care home, the army, the Iraq War… and all manner of horrors.

That’s an interesting phrase, actually. For whilst horror is the genre that made King the colossal global success that he is, I would say there’s a strong case to be made that his best work, certainly in recent years, is not horror per se. This is a straight up-and-down suspenseful thriller – there’s no genre horror here. Instead, King deals in the many horrors of reality – of bad men that do unspeakable things, of killers, of unjust wars. It will slip under the radar because of its context, but Billy’s account of clearing houses in Fallujah is an intense as you might imagine.

 Nothing supernatural in the theme, but there is a mention of the hotel in The Shining- love these cross references in King’s work! Enough with the Trump stuff already, nobody wants to read this.

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