Here is a thriller scary enough to test its readers’ mettle—and toughen them up ... Like Kate Atkinson in her Jackson Brodie series, King writes a procedural with Dickensian scope ... From vaccinations to the Capitol riot, Holly charges into the thorniest contemporary debates with gleeful recklessness. With the same abandon, King bends the rules of a procedural, not least by revealing the perpetrators’ identities in the opening chapter...King’s gambles pay off: Knowing the professors’ culpability only gives the narrative more urgency, especially as the gruesome nature of their crimes becomes horrifyingly clear ... What makes King’s work so much more frightening than that of most other suspense writers, what elevates it to night-terror levels, isn’t his cruelty to his characters: It’s his kindness. King describes his characters’ interior landscapes, their worries and plans, with a focus like a giant benevolent beam. You can sense the goodness running through them, and that current of goodness is what makes the acts of violence so disturbing.
King has never been shy about his politics, but Holly is one of his most political novels to date, and it'll' surely anger all the right people. Holly is a gripping crime novel, but it's one that's very close to the horror aesthetic King is known for ... the way the narrative is constructed and the layering of characters and their gruesome ends are all reminders that King is also a superb crime/mystery writer who easily navigates the interstitial space where all dark genres meet ... a testament to King's talents as a writer and a stark reminder of what can happen when writers allow the magic that inhabits their characters to blossom unimpeded by their original plans for them. Please, Mr. King, give us more Holly soon.
The novel is not so much a whodunit as a whydunit, moving between Holly in the present and each of the Harrises’ victims over the years. Each capture is evoked in devastating detail ... Lyrical and horrifying, Holly is a hymn to the grim pursuit of justice. The detective’s dogged search for truth drives the book; Covid-19, Black Lives Matter, Trump and the 6 January insurrection are all persistent themes. Even the Harrises are railing against the injustices of time and age. And the novel itself is striving towards an expulsion of poison, and a healing.
...an insightful deep dive into understanding the author’s fan-favorite private eye ... A number of subplots arise, Holly comes to grips with longtime family issues while also struggling with her confidence working the case, and the novel loses some focus and momentum in the middle before story lines come together and steamroll toward the end ... While it might fall short of top-tier King, Holly satisfies as a fitfully freaky thriller, a solid exploration of the title character as a soulful beacon of hope, and a reminder of how important it is to answer that call when it comes.
The narration is engrossing and inviting, the characters lived-in and tactile, and the dark deeds at the core of the mystery satisfyingly eerie. But what makes Holly work is more than the thriller aspects of the narrative. What called King back to the title character was not just her voice and her mind, but what someone like Holly Gibney would make of the rapidly changing world we’ve all lived in for the past three years ... You can go into Holly looking for nothing more than a satisfying howcatchem mystery, and you’ll certainly get that, but throughout the narrative King is also keenly aware of the ways in which the pandemic made us view each other differently ... Tense, satisfying, and rich with detail, Holly is proof not just that King had more to say about the title character, but proof that Holly herself has much more to tell us, and perhaps many more mysteries to solve.
It’s not critical that the reader have read the prior novels in the series to follow the story and to quickly pick up on the characters that provide Holly with her support structure. They do, however, lay the foundation for an appreciation for who Holly Gibney was at the start and how far she has come ... Great storytellers do more than entertain. They educate, they provoke, and they challenge our preconceived notions. Stephen King is Exhibit A. Presumably most readers view themselves as decent human beings, but how far would anyone go out of self-preservation? As the saying goes, getting old ain’t for sissies. Neither is reading Stephen King.
Opening up a new Stephen King novel and encountering his conversational prose is like settling into a comfortable chair or digging into a favorite meal. There’s an immediate sense of satisfaction. In her new leading role, Holly shines. She’s tough, relentless, and compassionate while at the same time being vulnerable and prone to lapses of confidence. The story is the kind of thing King excels at, too—dark, mysterious, and deeply unsettling. This is the novel Holly deserves.
...it’s possible that even his hardcore fans might find this story a bit slow. There are also issues in terms of style. Much of the language King uses and the cultural references he drops feel a bit creaky ... But the biggest problem is that this narrative is framed as a mystery without delivering the pleasures of a mystery. The reader knows who the bad guys are from the start. This can be an effective storytelling device, but in this case, waiting for the private investigator heroine to get to where the reader is at the beginning of the story feels interminable. Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.