A very tightly-focused Stephen King novel that I think will end up being among his best, mostly because he’s able to avoid one of his biggest problems, shunting in supernatural elements into a mostly character-driven narrative. Billy Summers is a for-hire killer, a former Army sniper, who because of a childhood trauma, has a penchant for killing, but only if they’re “bad people”. It’s a year before the pandemic and his new job has him setting up shop for weeks before the job as a writer moving into a small town. His neighbors take to his affable nature, and when he begins writing his story, he takes to it and realizes that he has something to say about his own story, or rather that talking about his past trauma he’s able to process some of the horrors of it. He’s about forty now (in 2019-20) and he joined the army in his youth amid the American campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As he preps for the job, taking out another for hire killer about to go on trial, he begins to get a little itchy about the job, feeling that it’s a setup. Part of his persona is to play dumb, so he begins to realize that his employers don’t know he’s suspicious. So he begins to employee another identity that he’s been saving for an important job, and begins use this additional identity as his way out of the whole industry. A wrinkle develops when in his other apartment, a young woman is tossed out of a van in the middle of the night, drugged, assaulted and left for dead. Not entirely out of goodwill but to avoid unwanted attention, he grabs her from the street and brings her into his secret apartment, adding some serious complications to his situation. The story goes from there.
Like I said, the book largely avoids some of his pitfalls. He can’t himself with a some of the book, but steps along the line a lot, but not usually over it.