Full Dark, No Stars
King of horror Stephen King serves up a grimly captivating collection of tales with his usual skill.
(Page 3 of 3)
And that could be that, except King is unwilling to let Tess – or matters – die there. Instead, a couple of severe plot twists, and an unforgettable road to recovery, put the pedal to the metal as the finale comes down on “Big Driver.”Skip to next paragraph
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The final two stories in “Full Dark” are shorter, but offer little in the way of sunny skies.
While “Fair Extension” seems harmless enough – employing the familiar devil’s bargain as its foundation – the details (ah, yes, the devil is always in the details, isn’t he?) of the ravages set afoot prove disturbing nonetheless. One family’s fatal fortunes devolve to another accustomed to ceaseless triumph, with grisly results.
Still, “Fair Extension” is mere child’s play in comparison with the last story, “A Good Marriage.” Again, the chills here stem not just from evil acts (in this case, the sordid deeds a husband hides from his wife), but also from the discovery that everything in an illusory contentment has been blackened.
By happenstance, Darcy Anderson discovers the secret life of her work-a-day accountant husband Bob, a shadowy existence that has left 10 women and one child tortured and dead. The bogeyman, she soon realizes, lives not just in her house, but also in her head.
What begins with a glimpse through the peephole of never knowing anyone completely leads into a yawning chasm of regret and revulsion, topped by a dollop of deepening dread.
Bob Anderson, being the obsessive deviant that he is, discerns Darcy’s discovery and then begs forgiveness. It is to King’s credit that such an insane plea could carry the slightest hint of credibility. That plea gains credence through the inevitable logic of self-preservation and, yes, self-esteem.
Can Darcy call the police and lose the life she and her husband have built? (Legal claims, he tells her with unswerving pragmatism, would take all of their savings even after he goes to jail.) What would the inevitable cable-news feeding frenzy do to the Andersons’ two grown children? And would anybody believe Darcy’s contention that during the course of a 27-year marriage she had no clue her husband killed and tortured?
Then again, Darcy could contemplate taking care of her murderous husband and preserving some small shard of her family’s previous life. Those of us steeped in King’s world can see where her thoughts could be headed on that count, can’t we?
Here again King leads us back to the everyday colliding with the horrible. “It would,” he writes, “be like the last chapter of an Elizabeth George.”
As for this final chapter, darkness lingers, but the nightlight keeps the pages turning just the same.
Erik Spanberg is a freelance writer in Charlotte, N.C.