Munich (AP) – Billy Summers is good at what he does. He kills people. But only those who deserve it – Billy attaches great importance to this. He knows how to shoot, he learned it in the army and practiced it enough during the war in Iraq.

But Billy Summers doesn’t really want to kill people. He is now 44 years old and just wants to finish one last job, only to retire and start a new life. Even though Billy Summers knows those last jobs in the movie always go wrong. The two million dollar pledges are just too tempting. Billy accepts.

Stephen King is actually home in horror. In his new book, he plunges the reader into the head of a mercenary. The book is a lot, but not a horror story. You search in vain for supernatural ghosts – even if the remains of the spooky Overlook Hotel briefly appear on the horizon, the scene of a completely different story from King, the novel “The Shining” published in 1977. Nonetheless, King tells a story. Incredibly gripping story spanning over 700 pages. Here, the people are the monsters.

“Billy Summers” is part gangster story, road movie, character study and thriller – with a western twist, with a film noir twist. Stuff that Martin Scorsese could make into a movie. Stephen King interweaves two narrative threads: the criminal conspiracy in which the murderer Billy with false identities has taken refuge in a small American town to await his perfect shot. And an autobiography this killer wrote while hiding in the city – to pass the time and heal himself a bit.

Because Billy Summers has had anything but easy in his life. Even as a child, he becomes a murderer. He has every reason to do it: Eleven-year-old Billy has to watch how his constantly drunk mother’s violent friend beats his little sister to death. Billy then takes the gun and shoots the man. He then went to a foster family and then to the military, where he had bloody and traumatic experiences as a sniper. After his assignment abroad, he ended up in mafia circles and enlisted as a contract killer. He plays the simple-minded towards his business partners in order to be underestimated. He has eighteen people on the road – only bad ones, of course.

Now it’s number nineteen. During his last posting, he lived under a false name in the small town of Red Bluff in order to become one with the surroundings. But then he finds himself caught in the crosshairs of the murderers. On the run, he meets someone who will change his life forever. It’s about morality, revenge, justice – and a few bodies along the way.

Even at 73, Stephen King is still bubbling with fabrics that barely allow you to go to the bathroom. Man is a constantly functioning story-telling machine. King evolves with the times. Its protagonists gossip about Trump and watch series on Netflix. The action takes place six months before the corona pandemic brings the world to a halt. But Billy Summers has no idea – he has his own issues. With each page, the story picks up speed – towards completely surprising twists and turns. The reader has no choice but to vacuum the pages.

“Billy Summers” could be the best king for a long time. Hopefully by no means the last.

Stephen King: Billy Summers, Heyne, 720 pages, 26.00 euros, ISBN 978-3-453-27359-7