A store has opened in the Maine town of Castle Rock, a store selling objects a person most desires, at a price the buyer can afford. But are the goods worth the cost? Can Sheriff Alan Pangborn get to the bottom of Leland Gaunt and his Needful Things before he falls prey to the madness that's gripping the town?
In what originally was intended to be its final appearance, Castle Rock goes out with a bang in this Stephen King tome.
It reads like a love letter to Castle Rock at times. I caught references to The Dark Half, Cujo, Sun Dog, The Body, and I think Cycle of the Werewolf. Ace Merrill and Alan Pangborn are the only characters I remember from other books but I'm sure there were probably others.
The story starts off slow as, one by one, the citizens of Castle Rock fall prey to Leland Gaunt's charms, buying his trinkets for whatever cash they have on them and doing pranks for him. These pranks are as custom tailored to the victim as the trinkets he sells and soon the denizens of Castle Rock are fuming at one another. Once things escalate to the point of violence, there's no turning back, making Needful Things very hard to put down for such a heavy book.
There's not a lot more I can tell without giving things away. Alan Pangborn could have been a Gunslinger in another life and his relationship with Polly was pretty well done. Ace Merrill was a world class douche and fell into the #2 bad guy role pretty well. I thought Needful Things took the gossip and cattiness that's a staple of small town life and turned the dial up until it broke off.
Things I'm still pondering:
- Was the spider that appeared near the end a relative of the spider from It, only feeding on pain instead of fear?
- Are Leland Gaunt and Randall Flag the same person?
- What happened to Castle Rock after the conflagration at the end?
Needful Things is like cooking a pot roast in a crock pot. It starts out slow, begins to simmer, and is a churning cauldron of deliciousness by the end. Four out of five stars.