End of Watch

End of WatchEnd of Watch by Stephen King
Series: Bill Hodges Trilogy #3
Publisher: Scribner
Released: June 7, 2016
Pages: 432
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The spectacular finale to the New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes (winner of the Edgar Award) and Finders Keepers—In End of Watch, the diabolical “Mercedes Killer” drives his enemies to suicide, and if Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney don’t figure out a way to stop him, they’ll be victims themselves.

In Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, something has awakened. Something evil. Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the 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—the woman who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him on the brain injury ward. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk, as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on 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 heart-pounding, supernatural suspense that has been his bestselling trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and chilling suspense. No one does it better than King.

Annoyingly, this book was both good and disappointing. After Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers my expectations for this last book of the trilogy were very high. They weren’t met.

The Stephen King books I’ve read have tended to fall roughly into one of two categories: the fantasy/supernatural, and the relatively natural thriller/horror, with a touch of the supernatural here and there. The thing that I’ve appreciated so much in the latter category, into which the two first books of this trilogy fell, is the plot itself being driven mostly by rational events, with the supernatural and weird being used to spice up the story here and there. It has added a very effective layer of unsettling uncertainty to a universe that has been normal enough to identify with.

End of Watch bases the plot entirely on a pretty major supernatural conceit. This could have worked, had it not been for the extent and the significance of the conceit being revealed gradually. Instead of the twists being based on events in the story itself, the twists are mostly based around revelations about how the “rules of the universe” actually work. This didn’t work for me.
There is also an annoyingly unnecessary lack of realism in some of the tech-aspects. I don’t mind stories leaping over technical realism when it adds to the story, I’m fine with “zoom and enhance”, but when the errors are mostly irrelevant to the story, and it would have taken half an hour of Googling to make it more realistic, it just seems lazy.
I also think this is the first time in a Stephen King story where I could see the ending coming from a mile away. I expected and hoped that I’d been mislead down the wrong path, but, alas, I hadn’t.

All that said, the book is still worthwhile. It has a real warmth to it, and the characters and the interactions between them are, as always, wonderful. Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers are excellent, and this is a perfectly fine, if not entirely satisfying, conclusion to a great trilogy.

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