Name: Needful Things
Author: Stephen King
Number of Pages: 933 (Paperback)
Published: May 12th 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Thriller, Horror, Supernatural
Needful Things, the sign says. The oddest name. A name that causes some gossip and speculation among the good folks of Castle Rock, Maine, while they wait for opening day. There was something for everyone at a price they could just about afford. The cash price that is. – from Goodreads
Welcome to Castle Rock, Maine, a town where life is about to get very interesting.
A new shop is opening, shrouded in mystery. Everyone speculates what the shop will sell. And when it opens? Turns out this shop may just have your heart’s desire. A very particular baseball card, carnival glass lampshades, Elvis memorabilia, whatever you want, big or small, wander past the window of Needful Things on a particular day and you may just find that exact item displayed there.
And it can be yours, for a price. Sometimes the monetary price is unbelievably low. People leave the shop, purchase in hand, in a dazed state, having negotiated with the owner, Leland Gaunt, the man who no one can bare physical contact with and eyes that apparently change colour. Charmed by deep blue eyes? Then you can guarantee that on the day you visit that’s exactly what you will see staring back at you.
There’s another price of course, to supplement these low cash prices. A harmless prank, a joke, played on another resident, someone known or just a passing acquaintance. The buyer never knows why they have to do these things, or what harm it could possibly do, they just know they must do what Mr Gaunt tells them.
And this is how everything starts to spin out on control.
Mr Gaunt seems to know of old rivalries and conflicts. He knows exactly who to pit against whom, using some poor third party who has no idea what they’re about to start. The pranks become increasingly cruel and the mere suggestion that these old rivalries are stirring again is enough to send women out into the street with knives.
A town of (mostly) respectable and peaceful people becomes the scene for chaos, murder, scheming and an explosive finale, all through this one man (if he even is a man) who knows just how to play on human greed and desire.
It falls to sheriff Alan Pangborn to try and set things right and get to the bottom of the chaos stirred up by the mysterious Mr Gaunt, whom he never manages to meet in person for the most part of the novel, although Gaunt has Pangborn literally in sight at one point, a wonderfully creepy little moment.
Can he sort out the tangled mess that Gaunt has so carefully created before it’s too late, or is this the end of Castle Rock?
At over 900 pages Needful Things is certainly a long novel, but it didn’t feel overly long. There are so many characters and relationships to establish before the whole peaceful community comes crashing down that the build up is worth it just to witness the spectacular chaos that one shop stocking your heart’s desire can bring about. And once Gaunt’s plan really starts to escalate the story becomes a real page turner and the last 200 or pages flew by.