If you notice clients looking at you suspiciously this tax season, it could be because they have just read Stephen King’s "A Good Marriage," one of the tales in his latest collection of short stories, Full Dark, No Stars .
King chooses an unlikely villain in "A Good Marriage," a buttoned-down CPA named Bob Anderson. Anderson is a partner in his own successful accounting firm and an avid coin collector. He’s also a merciless serial killer.
King describes Anderson as having characteristics you’d expect to find in any good accountant – meticulous record keeper, observant, master of details, adept planner, forward-thinker. King shows how, when combined with a twisted mind, these same traits also are useful to a person with murderous intent. In his description of Anderson the accountant, King might have been writing a list of Seven Habits of a Highly Effective Serial Killer.
Overall, King does a pretty good job of defining the orderly way accountants tend to think. But he also throws in many of the stereotypes you see on TV, an indication, perhaps, that King doesn’t know many CPAs or, if he does, he doesn’t like them. The villain dresses impeccably in his beloved Joseph A. Bank suits, complete with cuff links, but stops short of wearing the nerdy pocket protector.
It is through the eyes of his wife, Darcy, that the story unfolds. As his wife of more than 20 years, she can easily pinpoint exactly what her husband is doing at most times of any given day – or, so she believes. That is until she stumbles onto something she was never meant to see. Bob’s presumed predictability provides a cover for his other life and, in the end, exposes his crimes.
Accountants are accustomed to ferreting out unintentional errors and the carefully concealed deviations from the normal path. King shows how that ability that assists in solving financial crime also can be useful in crafting a veil of deceit that can be hard to pierce.
In the book's afterword, King admits that "A Good Marriage" and the other short stories in Full Dark, No Stars are harsh. But compared to some of King’s longer works that slap you in the face with horror on page one, these stories seem much tamer. That said, "A Good Marriage" is a story that is hard to put down. Feint-hearted readers can enjoy it while skipping over the worst details and not lose the sense of the story.
Accountants who read "A Good Marriage" might enjoy seeing the parallels King draws between some of their best business and personal habits, and those of a psychotic killer. But the people who love and trust those number crunchers may never be able to view them with the same confidence again.