Richard Chizmar takes us back to Castle Rock with Gwendy Peterson in the follow-up to the novella Gwendy’s Button Box. Fellow author Stephen King doesn’t lend a hand this time but gives the story his endorsement and we join Gwendy, now a Congresswoman for Maine as she returns to Castle Rock to see her parents, and becomes enmired in a mystery over the 1999 Christmas holidays.
She also ends up with the button box back in her possession.
While she deals with worrying about dealing with a war-hungry president, a photojournalist husband on assignment, and the mortality of her own parents, the button box returns suddenly without warning and sends her world into upheaval.
While slightly longer than the original novella, this story reads more like a slice of life than a full and complete narrative, though the thread of the missing girls and their abductor gets resolved. It doesn’t seem to have the same punch as the first story, and one wonders if that is because of King’s missing touch.
It’s still very good and we learn more about the box and Gwendy. The enigmatic Mr. Farris makes an appearance, and eagle-eyed readers will recognize a number of the names of Castle Rock locals that Gwendy bumps into and events that are alluded to.
I love the character moments, but feel that the missing girl story wasn’t delved into as deeply as it could have been, and in fact the final moments of that story feel rushed because of that. I get that her character because of who she is can’t be completely involved in the investigation but when has that really stopped fictional characters before?
But all the stuff with her family, the way the box comes back and its effects, and the self-doubt that gives Gwendy are all great. It doesn’t quite have the nostalgia that King can infuse into a story but the moments are very well-written and there’s a real sense of history and love in the family.
Much like Gwendy, I was a little let down by the interactions with Mr. Farris. I wanted more answers. Perhaps they are yet to come or maybe there are things we’re not meant to know yet. He’s not quite menacing but you know when he and the box show up that there is going to be trouble of some sort.
I like the way Gwendy is written and slipping between the pages of the book she feels like a real person. She is relatable and has the same worries and doubts we all do. Consequently, we wonder what we would do in her position. And that’s good storytelling.
There is one more trip to make with Gwendy in Gwendy’s Final Task which sees King rejoining Chizmar. Where will it lead? What will see? What wonders and horrors await? I can’t wait to find out!