Book Review: Billy Summers by Stephen King

Name:  Billy Summers
Author:  
Stephen King
Number of Pages: 
448 (Paperback)
Published: 
June 9th 2022 by Hodder Paperbacks
Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Goodreads

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.

My Rating:

4ddiamonds

My Thoughts:

Billy Summers is the latest offering from Stephen King and quite unlike many of the other books you might associate with him. There’s no horror as such, although some quite horrific things do happen throughout the story.

It’s the story of an assassin tempted into one last job by a massive payout, tempted even though as time goes on he starts to think there’s something not right about the whole set up.
It’s also the story of a man finding pleasure in writing, in telling his story even though he’s not sure that anyone will ever actually get to read it, and whether that even matters.

The beginning of this plays out at a leisurely pace as Billy takes on an assumed identity as David Lockridge, a man working on a book. The idea is to wait for his target to arrive at a certain place as going after him would be impossible. While he waits Billy has to become someone else, blending in with the local community, both at a work location (and site for the real job he’s been employed to do), and at a new home.
It’s in the everyday I find King has a way of drawing you in, to the situation, and with the characters that Billy meets. Watching him become a friend to these people, knowing what the outcome must inevitably be, it made me wonder whether he’d actually go through with the hit or attempt to find a way out of it and continue in the life he crafts for himself.

There’s a story within the story as Billy takes his cover to heart and does actually begin to write. At first it’s to avoid suspicion and questions, but as he recalls his own childhood, and later his years as a sniper, he finds that the story needs to be told, all the way through, and that he’s writing for himself, rather than to simply provide a cover story.

And then there’s Alice. Billy meets Alice under traumatic circumstances and with her entrance the tale goes off in another unexpected direction. I don’t want to give too much away so won’t say more, but there are quite a few different threads included in the story of Billy Summers.

The characters make the story, starting with Billy. He’s a man knowingly doing bad things for bad people, but has a certain code. He’ll only take on jobs targeting bad people, and this last target certainly meets the bill on the surface, but there seems to be more to it too, things that no one wants to get into. There’s also his reaction to the way Alice is treated, and the way he cannot let it go regardless that at that point so many people are looking for Billy it would probably be the safer option.

The people Billy encounters along the way, from his agent Bucky, to Alice, to all his neighbours in his new home, some of whom do seem to become genuine friends to Billy, all bring the story to life, and it was a shame to leave the everyday behind.

The second half of the story is faster paced, as Billy decides to set certain things right, both for himself and those he cares about. There is action and violence as the man who only targets bad people sets his sights on a number of very bad characters and the truth behind his original assignment comes to light.

I enjoyed Billy Summers. Time spent with some great characters in some awful situations left me wanting a happy ending for some of them. Did I get it? I couldn’t possibly say, but I enjoyed finding out.

12 thoughts on “Book Review: Billy Summers by Stephen King

  1. Tammy says:

    This sounds very different from his other books, and yet it also sounds *very* King like! I’m pretty sure I bought a copy so I need to check it out😁

    Like

  2. Calmgrove says:

    I’m not greatly into horror, and only slightly more into psychological suspense, so have unsurprisingly avoided reading King even though he’s well regarded and has been recommended to me several times. But this sounds like something that’d draw me in as it’s vaguely reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith, so I’m grateful for this crit, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • pagesandtea says:

      I’ve seen a few movie adaptations of Patricia Highsmith books but I haven’t read any so far. Do you have any recommendations for a good starting place? My TBR list could always do with another book or two on it.

      Like

      • Calmgrove says:

        I can’t say I’m vastly well-read in Highsmith’s work: apart from The Talented Mr Ripley (which I never got round to reviewing but is probably her best-known fiction) the sum total of my acquaintance is contained in these reviews: https://calmgrove.wordpress.com/tag/patricia-highsmith/

        Probably the first Ripley novel is a good place to start because, even if you know the plot and the outcome (as I did from the film) the sheer audacity of Ripley’s subterfuge keeps the reader fascinated. Strangers of a Train, her first novel, is also often cited as outstanding though I haven’t read it. I myself have The Tremor of Forgery to look forward to. Hope this helps!

        Liked by 1 person

      • pagesandtea says:

        Thanks for the recommendations. It’s a long time since I saw the Ripley film so there’s a lot I don’t remember about it so perhaps that may be the book to start with. Hope you enjoy The Tremor of Forgery, that’s one I hadn’t heard of at all.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Elyse LeMieux says:

    Ahh I haven’t read a new King since The Institute! I think he’s put out 3 since then? Plus Fairy Tale coming out in Sept!

    Like

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