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Everything You Need to Know About Holly by Stephen King

Holly Gibney is King's favorite character; and here's why. 

book covers from books featuring the character Holly by Stephen King

First introduced by Stephen King in his 2014 novel Mr. Mercedes, Holly Gibney quickly became a favorite of readers—and of King himself.

“I just love Holly, and I wish she were a real person and that she were my friend, because I’m so crazy about her,” King told NPR in a 2020 interview. “The first book that she was in was Mr. Mercedes, and she more or less stole the book and she stole my heart.” 

Though King himself has characterized Holly as “an obsessive compulsive with a huge inferiority complex” who is “refreshingly unfiltered” with a “savant-like memory,” others have seen her as an example of autism representation, and the two actresses who have played the character on the small screen—Justine Lupe in the 2017 miniseries version of Mr. Mercedes and Cynthia Erivo in The Outsider in 2020—have said that they “deliberately played her as autistic.” 

Since her introduction in 2014, Holly has become a recurring character in several of King’s novels and stories, and most recently graduated to leading status in the 2023 book that shares her name. Holly is the sixth time that Stephen King has written about the character and, given the way the book ends, it may not be the last.

But for those who are coming to Holly by Stephen King without a lot of background, there are questions that may need to be answered. Not to worry, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know! 

Who is Holly Gibney? 

Mr. Mercedes and its two sequels—Finders Keepers and End of Watch—ostensibly center around retired police detective Bill Hodges. 

In the first book in the trilogy, Bill is investigating an incident in which a stolen Mercedes is driven into a crowd at a job fair when he meets Holly Gibney, the cousin of one of the women involved in the case. By the end of the book, Holly is helping Bill solve the mystery, and her heroism is instrumental in bringing down the bad guy. 

By that novel’s first sequel, Holly is a private detective who has gone into business with Bill Hodges, a role that she keeps up through subsequent books, first operating as one-half of the Finders Keepers detective agency with Bill and then on her own after his death at the climax of End of Watch.

Some of the stories starring Holly Gibney are purely routine procedurals with human villains, while others involve supernatural shapeshifters known as “Outsiders.” As an idiosyncratic private detective, she is in a perfect position to star in stories of crime and horror, so who knows how many more Holly Gibney books we might get before all is said and done? 

Is Holly by Stephen King a sequel? 

When it comes to the question of whether or not Holly is a sequel, the answer is “kind of.” As we mentioned, it is the sixth book that has featured the character, and certain other characters who were introduced in previous volumes make appearances in its pages.

But the events of Holly, which feature Holly Gibney mourning the death of her mother, coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, and investigating a series of disappearances that may involve cannibalism, are not tied directly to any of Holly’s previous cases. 

So, while Holly is a follow-up to previous stories such as Mr. Mercedes, End of Watch, The Outsider, and If It Bleeds, it is intended to be read as a standalone story, presenting an entirely new case for King’s beloved private investigator to solve. 

What Stephen King books is Holly Gibney in? 

As previously mentioned, Holly first appeared in Stephen King’s 2014 book Mr. Mercedes. She has since appeared either as a major supporting character or as the lead in Finders Keepers, End of Watch, and The Outsider, as well as the title novella in Stephen King’s collection If It Bleeds.

Most recently, Holly lent her name to King’s 2023 novel Holly, where she takes center stage in a grisly mystery. 

Besides appearing in these six books, Holly has been brought to the small screen twice. Beginning in 2017, she was portrayed by Justine Lupe in the Audience Network series Mr. Mercedes, which ran for three seasons, adapting events from both Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers.

Then, in the 10-episode 2020 adaptation of The Outsider on HBO, she was played by Cynthia Erivo, and took on a more central role in the story. 

When does Holly by Stephen King come out? 

Stephen King’s Holly was published by Scribner on September 5, 2023. An excerpt had first been published in Entertainment Weekly earlier that year.

For those looking for a review of Holly by Stephen King, the buzz surrounding the book has been almost overwhelmingly positive, with The New York Times raving that, “when Holly appears on the page, you never have the sense of an author pulling her strings. Her decisions feel genuine, like Holly herself is running the show.”  

As of this writing, we don’t have any news on whether there will be any more Holly Gibney books, but we do know that a TV series based on Holly is already in the works.

While there’s no official release date yet announced for the TV adaptation of Stephen King’s Holly, nor any casting news or information on how (or if) it will tie in to previous TV adaptations, Emmy-winning producer and director Jack Bender, who had previously worked on the TV version of Mr. Mercedes, recently announced that he was going to be working on an adaptation of Holly

“It’s the joy of telling stories and the making of that with a group of people,” Bender said at a Q&A during Chicago’s Printers Row Lit Fest in September of 2023.

“That’s one of the best things about making television, when you’re working with great people on material you care about. I’ve been fortunate to know and work with Stephen King—talking about writers. His new book Holly, by the way, is great. We’re going to make a show out of that.” 

Stephen King’s Holly Gibney Books in Order: