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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Colorado Kid

Stephen King

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To purchase The Colorado Kid

Title: The Colorado Kid
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Novel
Written: 2005
Length: 184 pages
Availability: The Colorado Kid - US
The Colorado Kid - UK
The Colorado Kid - Canada
The Colorado Kid - India
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Colorado Kid - Deutschland
Colorado Kid - Italia
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  • With an Afterword by the author

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Our Assessment:

B : rambling little tale, more character study than traditional mystery

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Boston Globe . 12/10/2005 John Koch
Christian Science Monitor B+ 7/10/2005 Erik Spanberg
The Guardian A 29/10/2005 Maxim Jakubowski
The LA Times . 5/10/2005 Adam Parfrey
NY Newsday . 30/5/2005 Charles Taylor
The NY Sun . 28/9/2005 Otto Penzler
The NY Times Book Rev. . 9/10/2005 Chelsea Cain
USA Today . 5/10/2005 Carol Memmott
VLS A 8/11/2005 Jenny Davidson
The Washington Post F 3/10/2005 Patrick Anderson

  From the Reviews:
  • "The Colorado Kid is a curious little production -- part talky drama, part Down East travelogue replete with linguistics lessons, and, if you can believe it, part philosophical inquiry, however unsophisticated. (...) It's hard to imagine crime-fiction devotees cottoning to this narratively spineless, sentimental yarn. In the end, with its canned laughter, virtuous and good-natured old gents, and pastel-colored language, it feels like nothing quite so much as a 1950s sitcom." - John Koch, Boston Globe

  • "(A) taut tale filled with engaging characters and old-school suspense. It eschews trademark gore in favor of enchanting meditations on unsolved crimes and unresolved stories." - Erik Spanberg, Christian Science Monitor

  • "(A) delightful homage to the golden age of mystery (.....) With a wonderful and deliberately inappropriate cover, this book will divide crime readers -- I loved it." - Maxim Jakubowski, The Guardian

  • "If it were reduced to a fifth of its already slim size, The Colorado Kid would make an engaging lifestyle feature for Condé Nast Traveler magazine about the peculiarities of Maine's small islands. But a whodunit it isn't. (...) What this means, I think, is that The Colorado Kid is Stephen King's existential despair, his Nausea or Waiting for Godot, in which he equates the structural straitjackets of genre fiction with greedy fundamentalism." - Adam Parfrey, The Los Angeles Times

  • "The Colorado Kid skims the surface pleasingly. It's a measure of how good King's storytelling is -- no news there -- that he's given us a mystery without a solution and not made us feel as if we've been cheated." - Charles Taylor, New York Newsday

  • "I have to be honest and tell you it's a bit of a fraud. It is not a hard-boiled, noir thriller (.....) It is actually a rather sweet story" - Otto Penzler, The New York Sun

  • "(I)t's a mystery that isn't a mystery so much as a book that comments on mysteries, designed to look like a midcentury pulp novel. And you thought Misery was postmodern." - Chelsea Cain, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Whether feeling cheated or angry, readers won't be shortchanged. The characters and dialogue in Kid are wry and lively. The recounting of the man's last days as well as the investigation into his death are artfully detailed." - Carol Memmott, USA Today

  • "Sound modest ? It is, but it's also a small masterpiece, a powerful metafiction by a natural storyteller exploring the limits of his art. (...) (T)hese small weaknesses don't detract from the novel's great pleasure: its persistent and slyly self-aware subversion of the expectations all readers -- including the characters themselves -- bring to a detective story." - Jenny Davidson, Voice Literary Supplement

  • "King has thus given us not only his novel but his review of it, and unsurprisingly he finds it a quite satisfactory, even fascinating piece of work. Well, ayuh, I beg to differ. King has perhaps earned the right to be perverse, and perhaps has loyal fans will love his "story-that- was-not-a-story," as he calls it, but I found The Colorado Kid agonizing." - Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Colorado Kid is a story within a story, and in the end it is the telling that counts more than the mystery.
       Set on the Maine island of Moose-Lookit one day at the end of summer, the central characters are the trio that run the local paper, The Weekly Islander. Vince Teague and Dave Bowie are by now ancient men, and they've run the paper for decades; Stephanie McCann is the young intern barely out of college.
       A Boston Globe reporter was fishing for some good old stories -- unsolved mysteries and the like -- that he could use in a series, and the old folks served him up the familiar ones -- but it turns out they have one more story up their sleeves. It's not right for the Boston Globe, but they are willing to share it with Stephanie, and that's what the book mainly is: the two men spending the rest of the day recounting the story of the Colorado Kid.
       They warn Stephanie (and hence also the reader) what's in store:

    "Ayuh, the story of the Colorado Kid is a confusing tale, all right," Vince said, "which is why it wouldn't do for the Boston Globe, don'tcha know. Too many unknowns, to begin with. Not a single musta-been for another"
       Indeed, "with the Colorado Kid there was nothing but unknown factors". The story of the Colorado Kid is, to a certain extent, a simple one: a quarter of a century earlier, in 1980, two local kids found a dead man sitting on a bench on the outskirts of the village. He has no identification on him, and while the death looks accidental there are some curious aspects to it. It takes quite a while to figure out where he is from -- Colorado -- and then determine his identity, but that leads to even more questions. In particular, his disappearance from Colorado was both unexpected and incredibly abrupt.
       Vince and Dave tell the story at a leisurely pace. Stephanie also sees it as both a test and offer, the two old men asking and allowing her to become a real member of their team (and the whole island-lifestyle it comes with). King handles this subtext quite deftly, and it's obviously the more significant part of the book. He develops and presents these three characters quite well, even if he sometimes gets carried away with the native folksy tone.
       As to the Colorado Kid -- that remains a more complicated story, much as King had warned. Not so much confusing as uncertain: it consists of not all that many facts, and ones that don't easily add up.
       King offers an afterword, not quite as apology but to explain what he was doing and why he presented the mystery as he did. It is a valid approach -- and King does it well enough -- but mystery fans who like elegant resolutions and every last bit tied neatly together might well be disappointed.

       Note: there is what appears to be a glaring error in the book, as Vince describes the last known actions of the murder victim in Colorado: he told a co-worker "he was goin around the corner to grab what he called 'a real coffee' at Starbucks". Since the setting is Colorado in 1980 this isn't possible -- the Starbucks-chain was a local Seattle-only phenomenon well into the 1980s (and even there only opened the first variation on the now ubiquitous coffee shops in 1984) and there were certainly no Starbucks in Colorado at the time.
       Possibly Vince is using 'Starbucks' as a generic coffee-house name, but given the attention he pays to detail otherwise this seems extremely unlikely. The more obvious reading is that this wrong fact is the central clue to where the crux of the mystery can be found: here is a person who gave inaccurate information, calling into question the other information he provided, helping to solve the puzzle. But since King doesn't follow this avenue this also appears unlikely. (The Starbucks is mentioned again -- "The Starbucks and the sandwich shop were side by side, and they really were right around the corner" -- suggesting someone had checked (or were they again relying on an unreliable witness (though it's not clear who vouched for this particular fact) ?).)
       Or maybe it really just is a mistake .....
       (It is particularly striking -- and enervating -- because King uses his old characters to wax somewhat nostalgic and show how times have changed -- the backward days of even 1980 (regarding everything from fingerprinting to tracking planes) are repeatedly harped on. Which is why it is so hard to believe this was simply a mistake on King's part.)

       Update: The official Stephen King site offers a Continuity Clarification from Stephen (scroll down to 7 October entry):
The review of The Colorado Kid in todayís issue of today's USA Today mentions that there was no Starbucks in Denver in 1980. Donít assume thatís a mistake on my part. The constant readers of the Dark Tower series may realize that that is not necessarily a continuity error, but a clue.
       If it is a clue, we still can't figure out for what.

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The Colorado Kid: Reviews: Stephen King: Other books by Stephen King under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author Stephen King is among the world's most popular writers.

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© 2005-2013 the complete review

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