Ricky Church reviews The Colorado Kid by Stephen King…
After over 10 years out of publication, Stephen King’s mystery pulp novel The Colorado Kid returns to bookshelves in an updated edition featuring new artwork. King writes a fairly compelling tale as two old journalists in a small Maine island town recount one of their unsolved and most elusive mysteries to their newest intern. The book, which was loosely adapted into the TV series Haven for SyFy, has all the elements of a classic whodunnit mystery, but The Colorado Kid is much more concerned with the power of stories and the drive to make sense of unsolvable and confusing puzzles.
King’s novel is set entirely between three characters as they go through a 25 year old mystery of a dead man found on one of their local beaches with no apparent foul play detected and it is a long time before he is even identified. However, circumstances surrounding his arrival in the town raise more questions than it does answers. How did he get from Colorado to Maine? Where did his ID go? Why did he come to Maine in the first place? None of these answers are readily available and have driven the local journalists mad for over two decades while their young, passionate intern finds herself more enamoured with the story.
The Colorado Kid is one of King’s shortest stories he’s ever written. At 180 pages (less if you exclude the new forward from Hard Case Crime publisher Charles Ardai), the book is a fairly easy and fast read that can be completed in one or two sittings. The narrative moves along at a nice pace as the mystery becomes more engrossing around the Colorado Kid’s death, even with the fact that the majority of the story takes place within the newspaper’s office as the older journalists directly relay the case to Stephanie McCann, their young and idealistic intern. There’s no flashbacks of any kind to the day the Colorado Kid’s body was discovered, just a lot of vivid exposition of their experience and investigation. It could have been boring, but King’s writing is compelling enough with the chemistry between the three main characters and the various hypotheses they come up with to keep the story and central mystery an engaging one.
Though King makes his mysterious dead man an interesting figure, it may surprise some readers that, for a mystery, The Colorado Kid doesn’t have a large supply of answers to his death. King subverts most mystery tropes by leaving a lot of things open ended for readers to interpret, including possible links to his Dark Tower series or other stories. Ultimately, the book is more focused on the power mysteries have over people and the need for resolution. King gets fairly meta as he examines how people want a clean story with a beginning, middle and end, especially for something involving a possible murder. There are quite a few references to Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries or the cases of Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, but King posits that resolutions aren’t often gained in reality. The book spends time focusing on these themes in regards to its three characters, specifically Stephanie and the itch she feels for journalism and the little island town. Anyone coming into the book looking for a classic resolution to the mystery may be surprised how King concludes the story.
Included throughout the book are several new illustrations that depict some of the scenes in classic pulp noir form. Artists Mark Edward Geyer, Kate Kelton, Paul Mann and Mark Summers capture King’s settings and atmosphere pretty well. Whether it’s a picture of the body’s discovery, their photograph being taken or the collection of items from his pocket, the illustrations present King’s descriptiveness clearly.
While he skews tradition for a mystery pulp novel, King writes a compelling enough tale in The Colorado Kid for readers to sit with and go over on their own. Despite the fact the narrative is strictly between the three central characters, King’s writing allows readers to get the full scope of the mystery that has plagued these reporters for over twenty years while focusing on the very nature of mystery stories. The resolution might not be to everyone’s liking, but what it means for the characters, as well as its meta quality, makes The Colorado Kid a fairly introspective and insightful read.