Book Review: “Billy Summers,” by Stephen King

There are two things you have to know about the protagonist of Stephen King’s latest novel: 1. Billy Summers is an assassin for hire. 2. Billy Summers only kills bad people.

It started with the man who beat to death Billy’s little sister. Billy was eleven years old; they ruled it self-defense. At seventeen he joined the Marines and killed more bad people in Afghanistan. Call it “country-defense.” Now he has one more job to do, then he’s going to retire. At least that’s what he says.

There is always a good reason for Billy to accept a job, and this new job is no exception. The target is a child molester with a big mouth. Billy’s “employer” wants that mouth shut–permanently.

Eventually Billy completes the job and successfully escapes from both the law and the “employer” whom Billy suspects had planned to dispose of him.

With me so far? Okay—because we’re not even halfway through the story yet.

The story isn’t really about the assassination. It’s not about the two million dollar price tag or the 1.5 million he never got. It’s not about killing the man who murdered his sister or the enemy in Afghanistan.

It’s not even about Alice, the young woman he rescues from a mud puddle outside his apartment. The young woman who was savagely raped, beaten, and left for dead and who Billy–even though he’s hiding from both the police and the mob–takes in and tenderly nurses back to health.

In the meantime, Billy is writing his life story. Along the way, he realizes that his motives weren’t always so clear cut: If he’s killing people–bad or not–doesn’t that make him a bad person too?

With Alice in tow, part of Billy’s purpose now is to seek justice. Justice handed out to people who have done bad things that are not quite bad enough to kill for. The first people on that list are the three men who accosted Alice. It’s a “you reap what you sow” kind of justice.

Billy is on a mission and he won’t stop until it’s finished–or he’s dead

Question is: which comes first?

I won’t bother to tell you that this is a five-star read. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a Stephen King novel that isn’t topnotch. (Although there are some of the grislier ones I didn’t even try to read). I will tell you that, if you like Stephen King, or even a good suspense novel, you’ll like Billy Summers.

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One thought on “Book Review: “Billy Summers,” by Stephen King

  1. “With me so far? Okay—because we’re not even halfway through the story yet.” Yep, sounds like a Stephen King novel to me.


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