BOOKS: Billy Summers: Stephen King

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Sep. 18—Stephen King fans looking for the supernatural in his latest novel, "Billy Summers," may be surprised, but if they give the book a chance, they should not be disappointed.

Unlike "Mr. Mercedes," which was a straight-forward crime novel until the last couple of pages, there is no last-minute eeriness here. "Billy Summers" does give a supernatural wink to one of King's horror classics but those few paragraphs of weirdness play little part in this story.

Still, just because King does not fall back on his expected supernatural themes doesn't mean there aren't monsters in "Billy Summers."

There are monsters lurking among us and within us everyday.

Billy Summers is a paid hitman. He secretly prides himself on assassinating bad people. He plays dumb with his mob contacts but he's several steps ahead of them. When he's promised a $2 million payday for assassinating another hitman, Billy sees the job as his last hit.

But first, he must establish an undercover identity in a residential neighborhood to pull off the hit. There, the long-time loner Billy is accepted by his friendly neighbors, making it all the more difficult when the time comes to break character and assassinate the other hitman. In betraying his neighbors' trust, he wonders if perhaps he is a bad person.

King writes a very human story with "Billy Summers." Yes, there are bad people and bad things happen but some people, who many would consider bad, do good things, too.

About 200 pages into the book, "Billy Summers" takes one of those turns into a good deed which changes the course of the novel. To say any more gives too much away.

Billy also spends part of his time writing a memoir about his brutal childhood and a combat veteran in Iraq. Writing the memoir makes sense since his undercover identity is as a writer. King includes several passages of Billy's memoir which reveals the character's past and his philosophy, but at times, it seems to slow the main narrative.

Still, "Billy Summers" is a strong book, something different from King, a caper, a last-job story, unexpected relationships, dark humor and strong storytelling.

"Billy Summers" is a hit.

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