I’m admittingly not the biggest mystery fan, but I’ll read anything by Stephen King. And honestly, my biggest reason for picking up The Colorado Kid was wanting to read something short. Now, Stephen King has shown before that he can write non-horror just as well as horror. And this is a very different story from your average King book. The reviews for this book are very mixed. It’s not even a ‘love it or hate it’ thing; people’s opinions are all across the board here. I, personally, liked it but can imagine some people loathed it for the same reasons I give it 4 stars.
So, The Colorado Kid has a lot going on that’s different from most other mystery stories. First off, the mystery isn’t fresh. And the characters aren’t even really trying to solve the mystery. We have two older journalists telling this new younger journalist the most memorable story of their careers. The story of an unsolved mystery and their insights into it. And this is where I think a lot of people draw ire with the story. In fiction, people want a resolution. They want the time they spent reading to have a payoff. That’s not what The Colorado Kid does, but it was never trying to do that in the first place either.
Like any good mystery, we start with one big question. In this story, it’s “who was this mysterious dead man?” And as little answers and hints are uncovered, that leads to more questions so the trail of clues can continue. The thing is, this is where The Colorado Kid kind of stops. The characters (and readers) speculate a bunch, but it’s never outright said what really happened. And that’s the point. The Colorado Kid is meant to reflect a real-life mystery. Not the fluffed up, everything-works-out fictional version that people tend to expect. And oftentimes, real-life mysteries go unsolved.
Yes, The Colorado Kid is in the mystery genre. But it’s not really about the mystery. It’s about the characters trying to solve that mystery. Which happens, albeit a bit on-again-off-again, over more than a year. When the trail ends and they still don’t have a concrete answer, all they can do is speculate. And deal with it. And move on with their lives. The older characters even straight-up say they’ve never shared this story with any big-time publications because they know the facts will get muddled as people make up their own false ending due to our unyielding need for that type of closure as a society. By telling the younger journalist this, they’re passing the torch to her. And that’s really the point of this story at its core.
And as a side note, I think I really liked this book because it didn’t have a “real” ending and endings are something that Stephen King tends to struggle with. That many authors tend to struggle with. Ending a story is one of the hardest parts of writing one and the “life goes on” aspect of The Colorado Kid allowed it to skip over this usually steep hurdle.