Stephen King, From a Buick 8 (Scribner, 2002)

"Not another story about a scary car? Has the master of horror begun to repeat himself?"

These are certainly legitimate questions, and are very similar to the ones I asked myself when I first heard the title of Stephen King's novel, From a Buick 8. But these fears are unfounded. Not only is it completely different in tone and subject from his other haunted car book, Christine, but From a Buick 8 is one of the best books to come from his fingers in recent years.

The story takes place in Pennsylvania. State Troop D has come into possession of a car, an eight-cylinder 1954 Buick. At least it looks like one, but on further inspection there is no way that, in its present form, it could be driven anywhere.

But that is just what happened one day in 1979 when a man dressed in black drove it to the local gas station and then disappeared.

Sandy Dearborn tells the story of the Buick to Ned Wilcox, who has taken to hanging around the barracks; Ned is the son of a deceased trooper who figures in the story prominently. And this story is a zinger. The temperature inside and around the car is always several degrees cooler than the air, and odd things keep appearing out of its trunk. And that leaves out the lightning shows that come periodically.

As the tale is told entirely in flashbacks, there is no present danger, but that did not keep the writing from holding me entirely in its thrall. There may be no "horror" -- per se -- in this book, but there are tension, eerieness, and gruesome moments galore. King is still a master of colloquialism and dialogue, and these are some of his best characterizations. I could easily imagine walking into the Troop D barracks and meeting each and every one of these people.

Even the ending is perfect, and I am very picky about whether an ending truly works (a complaint I've had with King in the past). Although the best thing I can say about it is that I didn't want it to end. Taken as a whole, From a Buick 8 is a terrific example of a book from a writer who is still at the top of his craft.

[Craig Clarke]

To find out what Stephen King is up to next, check out his Web site.