Finally, here's what we've all been waiting for: End of Watch. If you are interested in reading my reviews of the other two books in the Bill Hodges trilogy, click the links: Mr. Mercedes or Finders Keepers.
What a way to end it—Mr. King, you keep us guessing until the end, don't you?
Maybe it's that he can't help himself, or maybe it's because he knows where to go to really scare us, or perhaps those are the same thing. Whatever the reason, this is one writer who isn't afraid to look under all the darkened beds, open all the scary closets, and let out anything that might be hiding there.
In this final chapter of the Bill Hodges trilogy, we are again confronted by Brady Hartsfield, the Mercedes Killer himself. His act of violence at the City Center that cold morning continues to haunt those affected by it. And Brady's victims are not just the ones he put in wheelchairs or otherwise crippled, they include the Finders Keepers team, especially Bill Hodges, who can't quite seem to let it go, though Brady is now incapable of even wiping himself let alone creating bombs or steering a car into a crowd of people. Hodges has been worried, though, that the monster is still in there, waiting dormant until everyone has dropped their guard. And then he'll strike.
It's not so crazy, because the nurses say that some strange things happen in Room 217—things they can't explain, like the blinds bouncing up and down, or the IV bag swinging all by itself, things that make them afraid to venture near Hartsfield. And we know nothing good resides in Room 217.
End of Watch is a much more internal book than the first two in the series. It deals with lonely people and how the depths of our minds can be a lonely place. But it also brings us back to a world King is familiar with, a world with supernatural leanings. As foreshadowed at the end of Finders Keepers, Brady appears innocuous and brain-dead (a gork, as the nurses at the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic would say) but somehow, he is capable of a form of psychokinesis. And if he has it his way, he's going to use that power to hurt people in the way he likes best: getting them to hurt themselves. No one will ever suspect a gork like him. It will be easy.
Although the book is still crime fiction, as the other two in the series, King doesn't feel the need to stay within the boundaries of genre. He pulls the reader back under the umbrella of the paranormal so easily, we almost wonder, what if this is possible? What if it could happen?
Beyond the narrative, I think King is thinking about bigger themes and how they are at play in our world—that's right: the world that you and I live in. Though End of Watch falls back on familiar territory for King in a supernatural sense, it also hits really close to home with some of the themes. The largest of these is technology and how it can be used for good or evil. The cyber world is the playground for this book, and Brady is the worst cyber-bully you've ever seen. The book ruminates, tragically and to great effect, how easy it can be to tear someone's defenses down, how we all live with insecurities and fears that if exploited can lead us down a dark path.
And King is also thinking about the proliferation of social media and how it spreads quickly and is so influential over our lives. We don't even consider how often we log on and check in, making posts and status updates. In this internal internet world we've created, sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Even suicide can be contagious. The internet can show us worlds of horror and we never even have to leave our rooms. And that is not fiction.
Hodges is old, and he's not getting any younger, but though his body is beginning to fail him, his mind is as limber as ever, as shown in End of Watch. It's easy to see him as a foil for King himself, who keeps on keeping on, writing book after great book at a rate that most authors wouldn't dream of achieving. Hodges and King also share other characteristics—Hodges turns 70 in the book, and King's 70th birthday will be next year. Though the book is far from autobiographical, I think King has put a bit of himself in his main character, and it proves that there's fight left in him yet, Don't discount the King—I think he's got plenty more stories to share.
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End of Watch
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Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.