Following on from Mr Mercedes and Finders Keepers, Stephen King closes his Bill Hodges trilogy with End Of Watch. The book once again sees retired detective Hodges on the tail of Brady Hartsfield, the infamous Mercedes Killer from the first book in the series. Hartsfield was left with severe brain damage at the end of the the first story, but this is a Stephen King novel and he brings his dalliance with the detective novel into his comfortable realm of telekinesis.
In 2014’s Mr Mercedes (read the Movies in Focus review), Hartsfield killed several people at a jobs fair and then attempted to blow up a pop concert before he was stopped by Hodges and his partner Holly Gibney. End Of Watch sees Hartsfield return from beyond a higher mental plain, using a games console called a Zappit to hypnotise people so that he can continue to take lives. However, the killer doesn’t count on Hodges’ determination – even though the former cop is now battling what appears to be a terminal case of pancreatic cancer.
End of Watch is a fast-paced read, a real page turner that you’ll fire through in a short period of time. King hits the ground-running, covering the events of the first novel by back-tracking through the opening. This means that you don’t need to have read Mr Mercedes (now a TV series starring Brendon Gleeson as Hodges) to follow this sequel. Previous instalments mean that the characters and relationships have firm foundations and Hodges makes for a likeable protagonist, aided and abetted by his quirky partner Holly Gibney and former gardener Jerome Robinson.
The first two thrillers in the trilogy were a departure for King but he takes things back to familiar ground by giving his villain supernatural traits. In a way this is something of a disappointment and it feels as if the author is leaning back into what he knows in order to deliver a swift conclusion to this detective trilogy. The return of King-isms and the hokey concept of a hypnotising computer device called a ‘Zappit’, along with several ‘Z’ related puns including characters called Z-boy and Dr Z make this feel a little rushed, or dare I say it…lazy.
End of Watch is far from prime Stephen King, but it’s a fun book with enough tension to keep the reader wanting to find out what happens at the end. It’s a solid, albeit, disappointing conclusion to the Hodges trilogy, but even a lacklustre Stephen King book has something to offer.