By Marty Mulrooney
The Colorado Kid is a murder mystery written by Stephen King, published by Hard Case Crime and Titan Books. Originally published in 2005 in the US and out of print since 2008, this illustrated edition – in the larger trade paperback format – features a brand new cover painting and 20 interior illustrations. The July 2019 release of this illustrated edition also marks the book’s first ever mainstream distribution in the UK.
Here was the thing Stephanie loved best about The Weekly Islander, the thing that still charmed her after mostly writing ads: on a clear day you could walk six steps from your desk and have a gorgeous view of the Maine coast.
Stephanie McCann is a post-graduate summer intern shadowing the two-person staff of a newspaper on a tiny island off the coast of Maine. The Weekly Islander founder Vince Teague and his editor Dave Bowie enjoy Steff’s company a great deal, so they decide to let her in on a real unexplained mystery that has fascinated them for over 25 years.
In 1980 a dead body is found by two running teenagers in the early hours of the morning, slumped against a trash can on a beach. The man has no identification on him and appears to have died by choking on a piece of beef, possibly steak. Case closed? Not by a long shot. Each new clue in the investigation poses further questions that can only be half answered by the two veteran newspapermen.
“Nope, no through-line t’all,” Dave said. He thought, then proved how little he’d lost his place by ticking items rapidly off on his fingers. “Contents of the bag was the deceased’s weddin-ring, seventeen dollars in paper money – a ten, a five and two ones – plus some assorted change that might have added up to a buck. Also, Devane said, one coin that wasn’t American. He said he thought the writing on it was Russian.”
“Russian,” she marvelled.
“What’s called Cyrillic,” Vince murmured.
The mystery of the Colorado Kid is recounted by Vince and Dave throughout the book, cutting between the events of 1980 and the present day while Stephanie follows the clues and makes educated guesses. It’s one hell of a mystery too. How does a man from Colorado end up being found dead over 2,000 miles away only 5 hours later? And why would the man abandon his life – and his wife – when there are no signs of drug abuse, money troubles, mental illness or adultery? It’s a tale just as gripping as it was in 2005 and the new illustrations make it even more enjoyable to revisit (or discover for the first time).
Despite only being printed in black-and-white – and remember, this is Hard Case Crime, so don’t expect any glossy pages – each interior illustration brings the story vividly to life. Hard Case Crime artist Paul Munn has painted a beautiful new cover as well as contributing some of the interior illustrations. He is joined by Mark Edward Geyer (who has previously illustrated Stephen King novels such as The Green Mile and Elevation), Kate Kelton (a gallery painter who also appeared in Haven, the television adaptation of The Colorado Kid that ran from 2010 to 2015) and Mark Summers (who previously illustrated Joyland, another Hard Case Crime novel written by Stephen King).
“And I know you’ve got your own fish to fry, but you must have some ideas… some theories… after all these years…”
She looked at them plaintively. “I mean… don’t you?”
They glanced at each other and again she felt that telepathy flow between them, but this time she had no sense of the thought it carried. Then Dave looked back at her. “What is it you really want to know, Stephanie? Tell us.”
Some readers will hate The Colorado Kid simply because it doesn’t tie up its titular mystery in a neat little bow. Others will convince themselves that the answer is right in front of them, if only they can make the clues fit together somehow. However, this reviewer would argue that such readers are entirely missing the point.
The true joy of reading The Colorado Kid comes not from the central mystery of the dead body found in 1980, but from the resultant conversation between Stephanie, Vince and Dave in 2005. Their generation-spanning friendship is always open and honest (even when the narrative isn’t), making each page spent in their company – hypothesising and theorising – an absolute pleasure. Sometimes, life’s unexplained mysteries should remain just that.
9 OUT OF 10