Haul out the Holly!
We first met her through the Bill Hodges trilogy beginning with Mr. Mercedes (2014), where she grew from a timid recluse into a formidable detective, followed by The Outsider (2018) and the short story collection If It Bleeds (2020). But despite her many supporting roles in the celebrated author's canon, Holly has never had a book of her own — until now.
Holly, King's newest novel, hits shelves on September 5 and puts the titular character center stage. This time, she leads a chilling procedural set in our modern pandemic era. Following her mother's death, the last thing Holly wants to do is take on another case. Her partner Pete is sick with COVID, after all, leaving her as the lone private investigator at the Finders Keeper detective agency. But when a desperate mother begs for help finding her missing daughter, something in her voice leaves Holly unable to say no.
What follows next is a thrilling tale that places our heroine in a Midwest town plagued by mysterious disappearances. There, she learns of Professors Rodney and Emily Harris, two married octogenarians who live just blocks away from where the little girl was last seen. And beneath their prim and proper home is a basement full of secrets that may hold the key to the evil that's run amok. Now, it's up to Holly to best the sinister intellectuals with her own quick wit and cunning eye.
"I could never let Holly Gibney go," King said in a press statement. "She was supposed to be a walk-on character in Mr. Mercedes and she just kind of stole the book and stole my heart. Holly is all her."
Along with the new novel, the audiobook is read by Justine Lupe (Succession), who played Holly in the television adaptation of Mr. Mercedes.
Read EW's exclusive excerpt from Holly below.
Scribner 'Holly,' by Stephen King
Excerpt from Holly, by Stephen King
Holly has two phones on her desk, her personal and her business. Finders Keepers has been busy during the time of the pandemic, although investigations have become rather tricky. The firm is shut down now, with messages on her office phone and Pete Huntley's saying the agency will be closed until August 1st. She considered adding "because of a death in the family" and decided that was no one's business. When she checks the office phone now, it's only because she's on autopilot for the time being.
She sees she's gotten four calls during the forty minutes while she was attending her mother's funeral. All from the same number. The caller has also left four voicemails. Holly thinks briefly of simply erasing them, she has no more desire to take on a case than she has to watch a movie or read a book, but she can't do that any more than she can leave a picture hanging crooked or her bed unmade.
Listening doesn't render an obligation to call back, she tells herself, and pushes play for the first VM. It came in at 1:02 PM, just about the time the last Charlotte Gibney Show got going.
"Hello, this is Penelope Dahl. I know you're closed, but this is very important. An emergency, in fact. I hope you'll call me back as soon as possible. Your agency was suggested to me by Detective Isabelle Jaynes—"
That's where the message ends. Of course Holly knows who Izzy Jaynes is, she used to be Pete's partner when Pete was still on the cops, but that isn't what strikes her about the message. What hits, and hard, is how much Penelope Dahl sounds like Holly's late mother. It's not so much the voice as the palpable anxiety in the voice. Charlotte was almost always anxious about something, and she passed on that constant gnawing to her daughter like a virus. Like Covid, in fact.
Holly decides not to listen to the rest of Anxious Penelope's messages. The lady will have to wait. Pete sure isn't going to be doing any legwork for awhile; he tested positive for Covid a week before Charlotte died. He was double-vaxxed and isn't too sick—says it's more like a heavy cold than the flu—but he's quarantining and will be for some time to come.
Holly stands at the living room window of her tidy little apartment, looking down at the street and remembering that last meal with her mother. An authentic Christmas dinner, just like in the old days! Charlotte had said, cheery and excited on top but with that constant anxiety pulsing away underneath. The authentic Christmas dinner had consisted of dry turkey, lumpy mashed potatoes, and flabby spears of asparagus. Oh, and thimble glasses of Mogen David wine to toast with. How terrible that meal had been, and how terrible that it had been their last. Did Holly say I love you, Mom before she drove away the next morning? She thinks so but can't remember for sure. All she can remember for sure is the relief she felt when she turned the first corner and her mother's house was no longer in the rearview mirror.
From HOLLY by Stephen King. Copyright c 2023 by Stephen King. Reprinted by permission of Scribner, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Audiobook excerpt read by Justine Lupe. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster Audio.
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