Mike Noonan is a thriving midlist writer on the verge of breaking through when his wife dies. He is barely able to finish the novel he was working on, and his output grinds to a halt. Over the next four years, he gets by on submitting manuscripts he left in a safe deposit box.
When the well runs dry, Mike heads to his summer home on Dark Score Lake, a familiar setting to Stephen King readers. There, he nearly runs down a little girl wandering in the road. She is Kyra Devore, and her mother, Mattie, is distraught. When Mike learns she is in a custody battle against her late husband’s father, computer magnate and local-boy-turned-whack-job Max Devore, Mike decides to foot the bill for a high-priced New York lawyer for her. When he does that, it becomes obvious that the summer home is haunted, and it ties to something sinister around Kyra.
Dark Score Lake is familiar territory for King fans, functioning as a sort of “suburb” of Castle Rock. In fact, much of King’s fictional Maine is here, with Mike Noonan hailing from Derry, the setting for It and Insomnia. There is, in fact, no hint of the bizarre supernatural happenings in either town. There are, however, references to other Stephen King surrogates. Noonan is amused by the work of William Denbrough from It. We also learn that The Dark Half‘s Thad Beaumont committed suicide. Noonan suspects it’s the writer’s block that he himself suffers.
Like King’s previous non-Dark Tower novel, Desperation (and its Richard Bachman counterpart, The Regulators), Bag of Bones meanders and wades into the story. However, the first-person narrative keeps it from being a mess up front. The story wanders a bit at first, but overall, it’s a coherent whole.
While this is a ghost story, there is a monster in this story, Max Devore. Devore is an absolutely abominable human being. He has a lot of parallels to Charles Foster Kane, even pining for a sled in his youth. Unlike Kane, Devore has no redeemable qualities, even attempting to “buy” Kyra from his “low-class” mother and leaving mother and daughter to live in a run-down trailer in rural Maine. His evil even reaches from beyond the grave late in the story, not exactly a spoiler when you consider King’s usual subject matter.