End of Watch is book three in the Bill Hodges trilogy by Stephen King and is easily the best of the bunch. Unfortunately, that is not saying much. Mr. Mercedes was a huge disappointment for me and Finders Keepers, though it started off pretty strong, just declined in story and writing to where it was a dirge to complete the reading of it. End of Watch is better than the previous two but one has to wonder if this trilogy did not have Stephen King’s name attached; would it have even been published?
Brady Hartsfield, Mr. Mercedes, has been in a vegetative state in the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic for the last five years. According to his doctors, any hope of recovery is impossible. But the nurses who work the shifts around Hartsfield tell a different story. There is an uneasiness when they are in the room with him, a feeling that they are being watched and somehow, being probed. The reality is that behind the blank stare Brady Hartsfield is awake and cognizant, his mind working and the growing new power taking grip. Brady Hartsfield can reach out and take control of other people’s minds.
Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney, part of the team that put Brady in his vegetative state, run an investigation agency. But Brady Hartsfield is never far from their minds. When their friend, Jerome Robinson’s younger sister Barbara, attempts to throw herself in front of traffic; Bill and Holly begin to realize something bigger is happening.
Barbara was holding a video game, a game that is no longer made and somehow this game has something to do with her actions. Bill and Holly begin to realize that this game is a conduit, a device used to take control of people and induce a mind control. What’s more, they realize, the person doing this is the last person anybody will believe can do it.
Mr. Mercedes is back and he wants to kill everyone that Bill and Holly kept him from killing before.
First, let me remark that I absolutely love Stephen King. His early writing is absolutely one of the reasons I became the avid reader I am today. Before the days of the E-reader, I remember walking down my apartment steps with a load of laundry to do, and a copy of Salems Lot or the Shining or better yet, The Stand; laying on top of the clothes basket to read while I waited for the load to be done. King’s novels were some of the best stories to be found, even though for the most part they became god awful movies. The writing may not have always been terrific, but the story always was on track. Reading a Stephen King novel was like having a friend sit down at a bar next to you and tell you a story over some beers. It was comfortable and terrifying at the same time. Now that same friend is comatose and drooling and vomiting on your new shoes as you try to ease him into a cab to take him home.
I can only imagine what a new young reader who picks up one of these books, reads it and probably thinks…”This is Stephen King? Really?” and then probably will never pick up another King book again. Never read The Shining or The Stand or It.
Someone needs to pull King aside and talk about legacy. Someone who cares. Not his publisher or editor or agent. Someone who can be honest about the drivel he is now producing.
King’s name is enough to sell the Bill Hodges trilogy and sell it well. Perhaps in this celebrity driven generation, that is all that matters.