Like the two preceding books in the Hodges trilogy, End of Watch begins on that fateful night in 2009 when “Mr Mercedes”, a young sociopath named Brady Hartsfield, kills a number of people using a stolen car. This time we join the proceedings in the company of two paramedics responding to the MCI call. They save the life of a seriously wounded woman named Martine Stover.
But as the new story skips to current day, Martine is dead. Like many others linked to Hartsfield. It’s almost as if he is still pushing people over the edge, even though he is in a clinic in a practically vegetative state.
Closure is the key term as detective Hodges and his partner Holly are forced to once more confront a murderous young man who, judging by all evidence, is incapable of doing anything at all. Following the continued evolution of the once isolated Holly is a treat. She is never smoothly confident, but has become sufficiently sure of herself to take control when needed. Evolving, if that’s the word, is also the murderous Brady Hartsfield, slowly coming out of a comatose state in a way reminiscent of King’s more supernaturally charged work. For Hodges, things seem to be turning bad health wise, just as he realises he still has some loose ends to tie up. His penchant for keeping secrets is a somewhat frustrating aspect of this book as well as the previous ones, but luckily, he can’t fool his friends for long.
Of the three Hodges books, this is the one most in line with what casual users might expect from King. With the focus on an outdated game console being used as part of an ambitious scheme it’s as much a techno thriller as a supernatural one. The combination of telekinesis, technology and the detective novel works surprisingly well, though. It’s a bold mix, but it’s presented in a matter of fact way that makes the concept strangely credible.
When the story picks up speed in a series of events and crises, it never actually slows down, but more focus than I would have preferred is placed on the details and minutae of Brady’s last scheme. Other themes include even less cheerful ones like suicide and cancer. But at heart, like so many of King’s stories, it’s also a tale of friendship. The finale, in keeping with the other two books, is tense and exciting and the epilogue is touching.
Summing up the series: once more exploring a new-ish format, King has again proven that he can write in any genre and style, and pull the reader in.
In a neat reference to Cujo, we learn that boy band ‘Round here were sometimes sponsored by Sharp Cereals.