Book: “End of Watch” by Stephen King
Publishing Info: Scribner, June 2016
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description: Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.
Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney, who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him on the brain injury ward. Brady also remembers that. When Bill and Holly are called to a murder-suicide with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put not only their lives at risk, but those of Hodges’s friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Because Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Bill Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city.
In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the supernatural suspense that has been his trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and up-all-night entertainment.
Review: You know that you are coming to the end of a good series when you are both racing through a book, and yet not wanting to finish it. This is the experience I had while reading “End of Watch”. On the airplane I realized that I had read half of the book, and decided that it was time to put it down, because I needed to savor it. I needed to hold onto the last Bill Hodges story for as long as I could. So when I did commit to sit down and finish it, it was both wonderful and awful. I wanted to know how it all ended, but I never wanted it to end.
It was definitely good to get back to the roots of this series, and those roots are Brady Hartsfield. As I mentioned in my review of “Finders Keepers”, it just isn’t quite the same without The Mercedes Killer himself. And he came back with all the malevolence that he had in the first book. But this time he is using a video game console and his newly acquired psychic powers to take out his victims. He gets them obsessed with this game, specifically trying to click on pink fish for points, and hypnotizes them into committing suicide. I’m sure it was meant to be a damning indictment of social media, but what’s even more accidentally relevant is that I started reading this right around the time that Pokemon Go had started taking the world by storm.
So the idea of Brady now having psychic, body jumping powers is kind of… silly. I mean, it doesn’t really fit with the realism of the rest of this series, but I was willing to give it a pass because 1) it goes back to King’s roots of “Carrie”, “Firestarter”, and “The Shining”, and 2) it gave Hartsfield a way to come back in spite of the fact he’s nearly braindead thanks to Holly Gibney.
This is very much Hodges swan song, though, as his health is deteriorating. Given that the book is called “End of Watch”, it should as no surprise that this is, indeed, the end of Hodges’ times as a detective. That didn’t make it any less melancholy, however, and his connections to his friends, especially Holly, made it hurt all the more. Hodges has helped Holly adjust and acclimate to a life she never thought she would have, and while so much of that is because of her, her friendship with Hodges (and Jerome too) played a big factor in it. So knowing that Hodges’ health issues are very serious makes the reader ache for Holly just as much the ache is for Hodges. They have come so far from “Mr. Mercedes”, their relationship going above platonic and romantic, and being in a category of it’s own. I am also still very happy with how King has characterized Holly, as while she has become more comfortable with herself for the most part, she still has her problems and they are NEVER presented as a character weakness. They are just shown as a part of who she is, that it’s just fine. King has made efforts in his more recent works to include more diverse characters, and Holly is a great example of that. Jerome Robinson is too, but I feel like we didn’t really get to see enough of him in this last book. Granted, he’s off at school and has his own life now, but I would have loved to see a bit more of him and his sister Barbara. That said, the part that Barbara did have was another good way for King to take on issues of race in this country. It was momentary, but it was well done.
The thriller elements in this book were spot on, as I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. King manages to take themes from the noir genre and makes them feel modern and unique, and the rivalry between Hodges and Hartsfield reflect this perfectly. We are ready for them to finally have their showdown, a moment we’ve been waiting for since “Mr. Mercedes”. Once I got into the final climax of the book, I was completely tense and freaked out, ready to find out how it was all going to turn out, and I was LIVID when I got a text from the husband that it was time to come pick him up from his morning excursion on our trip right as it was all shaking out.
Suffice to say, I didn’t want to put it down because it was just too damn addicting. And that is everything I want in a thriller novel.
“End of Watch” was an imperfect end to the Bill Hodges series, but it managed to hit all of the right notes and left me incredibly satisfied. I was very, very happy with how the Bill Hodges Trilogy wrapped itself up. Stephen King is a true master, who has proven that he can write many different stories of many different types, but he’ll probably always have a place in his original horror roots.
Rating 8: Though there were some moments that felt rushed and some characters who felt left behind, “End of Watch” was a solid and satisfying end to King’s Bill Hodges Trilogy.
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