I missed this one when it originally came out because I had heard there was a connection to the Bill Hodges trilogy and I hadn’t read the final two yet. The connection doesn’t happen until more than halfway through and involves one of the characters helping with an investigation while also alluding to the final fate of some of the other characters. In other words, it doesn’t have major plot spoilers for the trilogy so it’s really just a personal preference thing for other readers. The trailer for the new HBO show reminded me that I had skipped this novel in the King catalog so I went ahead and fixed that.
A young boy was murdered in the community and his body was horribly mutilated. The police have never seen anything like and emotions are high so when all the evidence points to the local little league coach, Detective Ralph Anderson makes a very public arrest at the last game of the regular season. Except, as it turns out, his alibi is rather legit – he was at a conference miles away on the day of the murder with other teachers. However, the DNA and physical evidence is rather irrefutable. It’s only after the high emotions of the town lead to another tragedy that the detective starts to wonder about his actions and whether he made the right calls.
His off-the-books investigation leads him to a potential string of previous crimes. This is classic King, and while he wraps it up nicely, it’s the introduction of the characters, set up the mystery and bringing it together that is the best part. I do think there were a few more sacrifices at the end than needed to be but that’s King – there’s always lots of collateral damage.