cover image Billy Summers

Billy Summers

Stephen King. Scribner, $30 (528p) ISBN 978-1-9821-7361-6

Ex-Army sniper turned hit man Billy Summers, the protagonist of this tripwire-taut thriller from MWA Grand Master King (Later), who views himself as “a garbageman with a gun,” decides his 18th assassination will be his last. But he rightly smells something fishy in the promised $2 million payout and runs rogue when things go south with his employers. Matters get complicated when a rape victim whose life he saves becomes his confidante and a participant in his plans to get even. King meticulously lays out the details of Billy’s trade, his Houdini-style escapes, and his act to look simpler than he is, but the novel’s main strength is a story within a story: as he preps for months in the small town “east of the Mississippi and just south of the Mason-Dixon Line” where the hit will happen, Billy, masquerading as a novelist, writes his lightly fictionalized autobiography, which grows more candid as it inches closer to current events and illustrates a line he remembers from a Tim O’Brien interview that fiction “was the way to the truth.” This is another outstanding outing from a writer who consistently delivers more than his readers expect. Agent: Chuck Verrill, Darhansoff & Verrill. (Aug.)