Holly Gibney

Created by Stephen King

Justine Lupe as Holly Gibney in AT&T’s Mr. Mercedes

When Stephen King finally delivered on his promise to one day write a hard-boiled detective novel, he pretty much blew everyone away with the Edgar-winning  Mr. Mercedes (2014), which played it almost straight, and introducing retired Ohio cop Bill Hodges. When we first meet him in Mr. Mercedes (2014), he’s bored and miserable. His wife has left him, his estranged daughter lives far, far away and he has no real close friends. He’s lonelier than anyone should be, slowly eating and drinking himself to death, and every now and then he thinks of pulling the plug. But he rises to the occasion when he’s drawn into a deadly cat-and-mouse game with a sociopathic killer in Mr. Mercedes and its two increasingly woo-woo sequels, Finders Keepers (2015) and End of Watch (2016).

By the end of that first book, Hodges had found a new lease on life, officially becoming a private investigator, and sets up Finders Keepers, a detective agency with HOLLY GIBNEY, a relative of one of the killer’s victims. Holly’s an emotionally unstable woman, with more issues than a magazine stand. She’s suffering from a rash of issues (OCD, synesthesia, and sensory processing disorder, and she’s somewhere out there on the spectrum), but she’s also blessed with a keen intelligence, savant-like memory, razor sharp observation skills, and some pretty savvy detective chops of her own. She’s an odd little bird, a compulsive list maker and a computer whiz, without any apparent social filters, but she’s curiously likable. The AT&T television adaptation, Mr. Mercedes, which lasted three seasons, cast Justine Lupe as Holly, who, in the books is middle-aged, but she nailed the part.

Which is why it was such good news when Holly returned, to play a significant role in King’s 2018 novel, The Outsider, and even better to discover that the agency she and Bill started was still going two years after (SPOILER!) Bill’s death, and that her new partner is Pete Huntley, Bill’s partner when they were on the force. Mostly they chase bail jumpers and trace missing persons, but things take a sudden twist when, out of the blue, Holly is called in (halfway through the book) to investigate a local angle on behalf of a lawyer defending a man in Oklahoma charged with murdering a child; a murder that seems to pretty much define an “impossible crime.”

Holly plays a major part in the rest of the book, and in the  2020 HBO adaptation, takes an even larger chunk in the proceedings. The only sore point? In the show, she’s not played by Justine Lupe, as a mousy, insecure but somehow lovable kid-sister type, but by Cynthia Erivo, who plays her as a distinctly more confident and take-charge detective.

There were plenty of rumours at the time that King planned to use Holly again in the future, and sure enough, she popped up in the title story of If It Bleeds, a 2020 collection of King short stories. It also features Detective Anderson from The Outsider, who receives a cryptic message from Holly:

I have done the best I can, Ralph, but it may not be enough. In spite of all my planning there’s a chance I won’t come out of this alive. If that’s the case, I need you to know how much your friendship has meant to me. If I do die, and you choose to continue what I’ve started, please be careful. You have a wife and son.

But even better? In September 2023, King released Holly, a full-length novel with our gal squarely in the spotlight.

Can’t wait…

UNDER OATH

  • “In her new leading role, Holly shines. She’s tough, relentless, and compassionate while at the same time being vulnerable and prone to lapses of confidence. The story is the kind of thing King excels at, too—dark, mysterious, and deeply unsettling. This is the novel Holly deserves.”
    —Booklist on Holly
  • “What makes King’s work so much more frightening…isn’t his cruelty to his characters: It’s his kindness…You can sense the goodness running through them, and that current of goodness is what makes the acts of violence so disturbing. King is having fun in Holly, absolutely—the story zings along—but his work also raises questions that cut keenly.”
    Flynn Berry (September 2023, The New York Times Book Review)

NOVELS

SHORT STORIES & NOVELLAS

TELEVISION

    • MR. MERCEDES
      (2017-19, AT&T Network)
      20-episode mini-series
      Premiere: August 9, 2017
      Based on the novels by Stephen King
      Adapted by David E. Kelley
      Directed by Jack Bender
      Consulting producer: Dennis Lehane
      Executive producers: Stephen King, David E. Kelley, Jack Bender, Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey
      Starring Brendan Gleeson as BILL HODGES
      With Justine Lupe as Holly Gibney
      and Harry Treadaway as Brady Hartsfield
      Also starring Kelly Lynch, Scott Lawrence, Jharrel Jerome, Robert Stanton, Breeda Wool, Mary-Louise Parker

      • Season One | Buy the DVD |Buy the Blu-Ray
      • “Pilot” (August 9, 2017)
      • “On Your Mark” (August 16, 2017)
      • “Cloudy, With a Chance of Mayhem” (August 23, 2017)
      • “Gods Who Fall” (August 30, 2017)
      • “The Suicide Hour” (September 6, 2017)
      • “People in the Rain” (September 13, 2017)
      • “Willow Lake” (September 20, 2017)
      • “From the Ashes” (September 27, 2017)
      • “Ice Cream, You Scream, We All Scream” (October 4, 2017)
      • “Jibber-Jibber Chicken Dinner” (October 11, 2017)
      • Season Two | Buy the DVD
      • “Missed You” (August 22, 2018)
      • “Let’s Go Roaming” (August 29, 2018)
      • “You Can Go Home Now” (September 5, 2018)
      • “Motherboard” (September 12, 2018)
      • “Andale” (September 19, 2018)
      • “Proximity” (September 26, 2018)
      • “Fell on Black Days” (October 3, 2018)
      • “Nobody Puts Brady in a Crestmore” (October 10, 2018)
      • “Walk Like a Man” (October 17, 2018)
      • “Fade to Blue” (October 24, 2018)
      • Season Three
      • “No Good Deed” (September 10, 2019)
      • “Madness” (September 17, 2019)
      • “Love Lost” (September 24, 2019)
      • “Trial and Terror” (October 1, 2019)
      • “Great Balls of Fire” (October 8, 2019)
      • “Bad to Worse” (October 15, 2019)
      • “The End of the Beginning” (October 22, 2019)
      • “Mommy Deadest” (October 29, 2019)
      • “Crunch Time” (November 5, 2019)
      • “Burning Man” (November 5, 2019)
    • THE OUTSIDER | Watch it now!
      (2020, HBO)
      Based on the novel by Stephen King
      Adapted for television by Richard Price
      Starring Ben MendelsohnBill CampYul Vazquez
      and Cynthia Erivo as HOLLY GIBNEY

      • “Fish in a Barrel” (January 12, 2020)
      • “Roanoke” (January 12, 2020)
      • “Dark Uncle” (January 19, 2020)
      • “Que viene el Coco” (January 26, 2020)
      • “Tear Drinker” (February 2, 2020)
      • “The One About the Yiddish Vampire” (February 9, 2020)
      • “In the Pines, In the Pines” (February 16, 2020)
      • “Foxhead” (February 23, 2020)
      • “Tigers and Bears” (March 1, 2020)
      • “Must/Can’t” (March 8, 2020)

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

THE DICK OF THE DAY

  • May 25, 2023
    The Bottom Line: A young, emotionally unstable P.I., with more issues that a magazine stand, is one of my favourite King characters, rising to the occasion in Mr. Mercedes, The Outsider and more.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

2 thoughts on “Holly Gibney

    1. MR. MERCEDES is definitely the one to read. They’re all enjoyable, but the usual Stephen King elements work their way in as the series progresses. Likewise the first season of the TV show is the best. Brendan Gleeson nails the character — you could catch a hangover just by watching him in the first few episodes.

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