Later is one of three books written by Stephen King published by Hard Case Crimes. It is similar to The Sixth Sense in that the main character is a young boy that can see dead people and ends up solving some crimes with that ability. I suppose this would be a horror story, as I am not sure what other category to put it under, but it was not at all frightening to read.
Jaime is the son of a single parent and was born with the ability to see the dead before they fade away. Jaime’s mother, who has her own twisted family secret, encourages him to keep his ability a secret. However, she tells her NYPD detective girlfriend about Jaime’s ability. Jaime is upset and feels violated at this but is mature beyond his years and finds a way to cope with it. As a reader, you know it’s only a matter of time before this goes bad.
Jaime has already learned to tell the difference between the living and those who have passed on. Most of the time, the dead just smile and wave at him, appearing as they were in the moment they had died. Some are disfigured and gory, others look completely normal. Jaime learns that the dead must tell the truth if asked a question, which ends up handy when his mother needs to write the story from an author who has just died of a heart attack. He leads a fairly normal life as a middle school aged boy – thinking about girls, playing football with his friends, sarcastic inner monologue. At one point, Jaime’s mother’s then ex-girlfriend exploits his ability in order to track down a serial bomber and ends up exposing Jaime to an evil and angry spirit, who will not fade and follows him wherever he goes. Jaime, of course, learns to live with this unique spirit, but eventually confronts the spirit and ends up banishing it until Jaime calls him back with a whistle. I think you all know that Jaime will need this at some point later in the story.
Years pass by and things seem to be normal, but Jaime’s mother’s ex-girlfriend, now a strung out and disgraced detective, comes back into their lives. She kidnaps Jaime and drives him hours out of the city to a drug kingpin’s home. She is looking for a shipment of drugs the kingpin was supposed to receive and needs Jaime to tell her where the recently deceased kingpin has stored them. In Jaime’s struggle to survive, he calls back the banished evil spirit to help him; however, this spirit is unhappy to be obligated to Jaime and has grown stronger. Hopefully, Jaime will never have to call this demon back again.
Later is a fast and enjoyable read. There were a couple of typos in my copy, which I was surprised to see in a Stephen King book, but it did not take away from this book. In true King style, the story line zigs and zags and twists so that the reader is not sure what is going to happen next. Jaime is a well-developed and loveable character – realistic, genuine, truthful, brave, and mature – and one that I hope there is a follow-up story to. King uses the right amount of description in each scene to paint a vivid picture for the reader without bogging them down with too much detail. The reader gets a real sense of how Jaime’s ability is both terrifying and heartbreaking at times, especially when Jaime talks to his beloved neighbor and his uncle after they die. I would highly recommend this book for anyone over 18 who is interested in just the right amount of supernatural scare with a touch of crime mystery.