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Picks and Pans Review: From a Buick 8

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By Stephen King

At his best, King isn’t a bloody-fangs kind of guy but a master of sunlit horror who lingers in ordinary places waiting for some little thing to go wrong, at first subtly, then not so.

In his latest shudderfest, a beautiful midnight-blue Buick Roadmaster abandoned at a Pennsylvania gas station keeps its own finish polished but soon begins to expel icky things from its pestilent trunk. These are so primally awful that the highway patrol folks, who store the beast in a shed, have trouble describing what they see. And that’s where the book is more frustrating than scary. A maddening lack of specifics (a case in point is the title, which is only vaguely linked to the Bob Dylan song “From a Buick 6”) keeps the fright sputtering in low gear as King keeps telling us things like, “Sandy Dearborn could not express even to himself how fundamentally revolting and dismaying the corpse-lilies were.” The dialogue is realistic and pungent, though, and in a subplot, King draws a powerful portrait of strong men confronting their vulnerability—across generations and death itself—in the face of the macabre. (Scribner, $28)

Bottom Line: Fine in places, but needs some bodywork