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The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Review | “Holly” by Stephen King tells chilling adventure of private investigator

Stephen King delivered an intriguing new thriller that will leave readers scrambling to figure out the pieces of the puzzle.
© SHANE LEONARD, USA TODAY via Imagn Content Services, LLC

When I sat down and cracked open the latest addition to a long line of novels by bestselling author Stephen King, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had never once picked up a King novel before.

Had I been curious? Sure. But curiosity hadn’t gotten the better of me until one afternoon in mid-September when I decided to crack open the pages of “Holly” and experience King’s work for the first time.

Published on Sept. 5, “Holly” tells the story of private investigator Holly Gibney who is hired to locate a missing 24-year-old girl.

Before her titular debut, the character of Holly Gibney appeared in a few of King’s previous works, including the “Mr. Mercedes” trilogy and “The Outsider.”

A fan favorite of those prior novels — which I will have to go back and read at some point — Holly is now the titular character of this one.

Woven into the story is the complicated relationship between Holly and her now-deceased mother Charlotte, as well as the stories of other characters who, in one way or another, find themselves on Holly’s radar.

What immediately jumped out at me about this book was how relatable the character of Holly was: A struggling and deeply flawed middle-aged woman, the intelligent and hardworking Holly is forced to try and solve the case of the missing Bonnie Dahl amid a world plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Set in 2021, with brief flashbacks dating back to 2012, the difficult and sometimes hopeless feelings of the time period are relatable to all readers, especially considering how seriously Holly approached the pandemic and how it continues to affect her day-to-day life.

What is also rather interesting about this book is the villainous duo of professors that readers are introduced to early in the story.

Rodney and Emily Harris aren’t who anyone would typically think of as epic and threatening villains. For one, both Rodney and Emily are well into their 80s, and are endlessly devoted to one another. In any other book, these two might be a sweet, charming couple who have no impact on the flow of the story.

In this book, however, readers are given insight into the Harris’ twisted minds as Holly chases down leads that slowly lead her closer to the unholy truth of the old professors’ actions.

Throughout the course of the novel, several other missing people are discovered, aside from the original missing woman, Bonnie Dahl. Many plot threads are connected in ways that I didn’t see coming.

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Additionally, King masterfully weaves plot threads together. After finishing the book, I felt as if there was no unimportant scene or character; everything connected back to the main case, even if it took a couple hundred pages to realize it.

Beginning this book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As someone who doesn’t normally read the horror genre, and with King being dubbed the “King of horror,” I was a little apprehensive in truth.

The payoff I felt after reading the book, however, put all my apprehensions aside. “Holly” is a well-crafted and relatable story and I’d encourage anyone even remotely interested in King’s work to pick it up.

As for me, I may have to spend some time looking in the Stephen King section on my next trip to the bookstore.

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About the Contributor
Riley Dunn
Riley Dunn, Arts Reporter
Riley Dunn is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in English and Creative Writing and Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to her time at the DI, Riley interned for Swimming World Magazine.