Title: Billy Summers

Author: Stephen King

Type: Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 441

Rating: 4/5

This is King’s latest book, at least at the time of writing and if I’ve got my facts straight. It’s also a damn good one, although you might be disappointed if you go in expecting the hardcore horror that he was known for when he first started out.

It follows a hitman for hire, an assassin who used to be a sniper in the US military before going freelance. He prides himself on the fact that he only ever kills bad guys, and he ends up taking on the famous “one last job” for a $2 million payday.

The only problem is that he has to settle into the job by living under an alias and fitting into a local neighbourhood. But as time goes on, it quickly becomes apparent that he’s perhaps enjoying that a little too much and getting closer than he really ought to.

Meanwhile, he’s also getting into his cover story by writing a book, which takes the form of an autobiography. This is the mechanism that King uses to slowly tell Billy’s backstory in his own voice, and it worked well. Really well – in fact, the excerpts of Billy’s novel reminded me of the excerpts of Paul Sheldon’s novel in Misery, except that I wasn’t a fan of those. These ones, though, don’t slow the story down. They speed it up and drive it forward.

There’s also a little twist about half way through, although I’m not sure if it’s accurate to call it that. It’s more that it seems as though the story is going in one direction, and then it kind of reaches the end of one plot line and takes off in another. When that happens, a new character is introduced which totally changes the dynamics. And yet it works.

The result is one of my favourite books that King has written in recent years, and I’m glad that I picked this one up for sure. I hope that he does more standalone stuff like this rather than continuing with the Mr. Mercedes series, which started well and then went downhill fast.

The only thing that I should say is that there are trigger warnings here for sexual assault and rape, as well as some stuff that could set off your PTSD if you’re a former serviceman. But for me, I thought that it all added to the realism and made the characters feel more fleshed out and realistic. The problem is that people in King’s novels have a tough time of things.

Learn more about Billy Summers.