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End of Watch by Stephen King

BOTTOM LINE: I am glad I can put this behind me and can only hope his next novel is better.

Genre: Suspense & Thriller
Publication Date: 7 June 2016
Source: Mine. All mine.

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“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.”

My Thoughts: I loved Mr. Mercedes but thought Finders Keepers was, well, boring. So it took me a long time to muster the courage and desire to start the final book in the series. Then, it took me two months to listen to it. This, to me, confirms my fears were founded.

End of Watch is not a bad book per se. It is definitely better than the middle book in the series. I still found it incredibly slow and repetitive though. There is little action and too much exposition. Since the novel occurs six years after the Mercedes Massacre, much of the novel revolves around Brady’s recovery and the implementation of his plan during those years. Even the final showdown between Bill and Brady is anticlimactic given the years of build-up. The whole thing feels a bit like much ado about nothing.

Unlike the first two novels, I really struggled to connect with the characters this time. One of the issues for this is because they really have not changed since we first met them. Bill is still the gruff retired detective, while Holly is still the brilliant but odd sidekick. Jerome arrives on the scene to bring the three of them together again just in time to confront the Big Bad but other than being a bit older and quieter he is the youthful third appendage to their triumvirate, just as he was in the first book. Even Brady’s desire for revenge, obsession with Bill, and penchant for driving people to suicide is more of the same we have come to expect from him. It is difficult to find interest in characters who have not changed over three books and several years.

Speaking of Brady, his power is pure King, but somewhere along the way the use of his powers takes a humorous bent even though I am sure that is not Mr. King’s intent. The thing is that Brady never takes control over anyone who is physically a threat. While they can and do use weapons, there is nothing sinister about their appearance. They are not threatening in their demeanor or physical presence, and this deflates any sense of suspense or tension Mr. King tries to build. What makes it worse is the description of two elderly gentlemen squaring off for a fight in the scene we have been waiting for since the end of Mr. Mercedes. Nothing about Brady is threatening anymore, and the story suffers as a result.

End of Watch does bring some much-needed closure to Bill’s, Brady’s, and Holly’s stories, and for that, it is worth reading. It is not the best King story, but a bad King story is still better than most. The ending of the novel is particularly poignant and provides one of the best scenes in the series. Unfortunately, it comes a little too late to rescue the final book in the series.

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