Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Colorado Kid

The Colorado Kid (2005) by Stephen King

"The Colorado Kid" is the name given to an unknown man who shows up dead on a Maine island beach in 1980. the autopsy indicates that he died from a lack of oxygen (steak lodged in his throat) that may have caused a stroke (or vice versa). At first it looks like there are no clues to the man's identity--no wallet or papers on his person and no one comes forward to even say they saw him arrive on the island. The State Troopers assigned to the case have more important fish to fry (a real live murder case!) than an accidental death. Two newspapermen on the island and a grad student intern assigned to the Troopers dig up a few meager bits that lead to Colorado and ultimately the identification of the man as James Cogan.

But that's it. The investigation can't tell them why a mild-mannered advertising man who to all appearances was devoted to the wife and son he left behind in Colorado should have walked out of the office one fine morning on an errand for coffee and traveled across country to die on a lonely Maine beach. The newspapermen believe there is more to it than meets the eye--but can't find any leads or evidence to tell them what. And they never do. Years later, they tell their whole--incomplete--story to a young woman working as an intern for them. [I'm guessing that's supposed to be her there on the cover....]

Say hello to the mystery novel that really isn't a mystery novel. Is there a dead body? Sure. Do we ever really find out anything about what happened to him and why--other than he choked to death on a piece of steak? Nah. That wasn't King's point. King's point is how odd things happen all the time in real life that never get explained--so just deal with the fact that he doesn't explain what happened in his story either. And what's particularly annoying is that he know full well that mystery readers expect a resolution and he just thumbs his nose at them in the afterword:

Mystery is my subject here, and I am aware that many readers will feel cheated, even angry by my failure to provide a solution to the one posed. Is it because I had no solution to give? The answer is no.

So--he could have played by the mystery fiction rules. He just didn't want to.

As straight fiction--I liked this a LOT more than 11/22/63 (the only other King book I've ever read--also for a challenge). Quite possibly because it's a heck of a lot shorter. But also because I enjoyed the interactions between the main characters. And I enjoyed the way the two old newshounds told their story. I even enjoyed the build up of the story...which explains why I've given this ★★★. As a mystery or crime fiction novel--it leaves a LOT to be desired...which explains why it's not getting even a partial star more. Don't fly your story under the mystery/crime fiction flag and then refuse to play by the rules. Quite honestly, I'm confused as to why this was included in the Hard Case Crime editions. My only conclusion is they thought King's name would draw attention to the series.

Am I sold on King as an author? No. I probaby won't read another one unless I run into him in another challenge that requires one of his books.

Deaths = one (asphyxia)

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