Summer is the perfect time for a Stephen King novel. His newest release, Billy Summers, tells the story of Billy Summers, a killer for higher with a conscience and the story of his last hit. Narrated by Paul Sparks, this tale will remind readers of other King characters and stories as it pulls you in….
by Stephen King
Narrator: Paul Sparks
Length: 16 hours and 57 minutes
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
Narration: 5 cups Speed: 1.3x
Billy Summers is a man in a room with a gun. He’s a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So what could possibly go wrong?
How about everything.
This novel is part war story, part love letter to small town America and the people who live there, and it features on of the most compelling and surprising duos in King fiction, who set out to avenge the crimes of an extraordinarily evil man. It's about love, luck, fate, and a complex hero with one last shot at redemption.
Stephen King is known for his horror stories, has shifted into suspense thrillers in recent years, and Billy Summers falls along that vein. While there are dark and gritty moments, it is also the story of man, a woman and revenge.
Billy is a man shaped by his past from his childhood to his time in the military as a sniper. He’s a hit man, a killer for hire, but he has rules. He only kills bad people. Billy is ready to retire, but accepts one last job with an outstanding payoff. He’ll be able to retire in style.
The job requires Billy to move into the area under an assumed name while he waits for his target to arrive. He’s given a place and a background. Billy lives in Red Bluff, where he tells folks he signed a book deal and he’s come here to write. Here he makes friends and becomes a part of the community, something Billy has never done.
While under the guise of a writer, Billy actually writes. He tells his life story and through these pages we learn about him and how he became a killer for higher. It was fascinating to get inside the mind of a killer and have the perspective of a criminal. I loved the community and taking part in backyard picnics and helping the neighbors.
One thing I love about King’s writing is how he builds up and fleshes out his characters and story, before he twists things and you find yourself unable to put it down. So the first part of the book is getting to know Billy as he waits for his target, and the second half happens after he has performed the task.
After the deed is done, Billy realizes something is wrong, and it’s here things turn upside down. Then Billy meets Alice and King sets us up again for the finale.
Be warned, there are bad people who do bad things. Billy is far from politically correct and some of his comments may offend. This was written before Covid, but as one would expect, there are some digs particularly in-regard to Trump. If you have triggers for rape and violence, you’ll want to tread lightly.
I wasn’t sure about Alice, but she ended up being a pivotal character. The two played off each other well, and are one of Kings’ best duos. I loved their dynamics and interactions. Billy Summers will sit amongst King’s most remembered characters. He is fully formed and authentic. I finished feeling like I really knew Billy. The reader/listener cannot help but connect, even though he does bad things. I won’t be forgetting Billy Summers any time soon.
Paul Sparks narrates, and he captured the voice(s) of Billy perfectly. His secondary characters from Alice to the contractors were superb. His dialect and pacing enhanced the story and pulled me in.
Fans will find plenty of Easter Eggs referencing previous characters and works. As always, King throws in zingers involving current events and leaves his listeners to ponder the choices and situations his characters find themselves in.
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Reading this book contributed to these challenges: