Billy Summers

Billy Summers – Stephen King

Billy Summers is the guy you hire when you need to eliminate someone of ill-repute. No good guys, please. Hmm, that sounds familiar. Where have I heard that before? Ah well, it’s hard to come up with an original idea these days. Given the task of assassinating a hitman moments before he is set to be brought to trial, Billy sets up an office across from the courthouse set to hold the trial in question with his cover being that of an author working on his next big novel. Arriving in town a few months before his target is due to arrive, Billy’s employer sets him up in an unassuming home in a quiet neighborhood with the goal of blending in and gaining the trust of the community to alleviate any suspicion.

What’s that old saying? “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry?”

I am likely a Stephen King fan for life at this point. Outside of those dreadful Mercedes books, I think I’ve picked up everything he’s written on the day it was released within the last twelve years or so. While I consider 11/22/63 King’s modern masterpiece, Billy Summers is one of the better books he’s written in the last decade.

The best parts of King’s novels are the middles – where he gets to develop his characters and play around in the worlds he’s created. Knowing where Billy will ultimately end up after he does the deed made the relationships he developed with his neighbors all the more tragic given that they ultimately learn who he is. However, it’s Billy’s relationship with a woman he saved from death in Alice that really made this story memorable. As the two learned to trust one another, the novel became something deeper than just an action story, as it touched on the themes of loneliness, guilt and responsibility.

There’s always that hope that King will tie his work into his established “dominion”, Billy Summers does indeed weave itself into the Stephen King literary universe as Alice and Billy at one point find themselves in Sidewinder, Colorado in the shadow of the former Overlook Hotel – I’ll just leave it at that rather than go deep into spoiler territory here.

You know how I said earlier in the review that one of the best parts of King’s novels are the middles? It’s because the endings are so awful. However, in Billy Summers, King totally sticks the landing. I thought King came up with a fantastic way to end this story. King was able to get me to bite hard on a misdirection that I did not see coming and when the reveal arrived, it was the right choice.

Billy Summers is one of the few modern King books I could see myself revisiting in the next few years. Although the emotional gut-punch of an ending may not hit as hard a second time, I am looking forward to hanging out in that basement apartment with Billy and Alice once again.

2 thoughts on “Billy Summers

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