Hodder, out now
Bill Hodges is brought in to help on a baffling case by his former partner. But does his nemesis Brady Hartfield really have anything to do with it?
The final story in Stephen King’s trilogy of tales featuring Bill Hodges and his motley group of friends veers firmly into the sort of territory that we associate with the master writer. Mr Mercedes felt like King working in a slightly unfamiliar milieu; Finders Keepers introduced one of the writer’s main themes – that of obsession – and the book was the more powerful for it. End of Watch, for my money, is the best of the three, in part because it mixes the best of the police/private detective procedural elements of the first book with the sort of atmosphere of things not being quite right (and then proceeding to go quite definitely wrong) that King brings to the best of his writing.
It’s established early on that Hodges is seriously ill, and that affects his outlook throughout the book, as well as the relationships within the Finders Keepers organisation. Brady Hartfield is also seriously ill, but he seems to have an outlet that neither he, nor anyone else, expects – and one of the strengths of the book is the way in which any hint of the supernatural is constantly downplayed.
There are moments of bravery, bravado and sheer bloodymindedness, and a reminder that King can pen insidiously horrific moments that stay in your mind as well now as he could when he began five decades ago. This may be the end for this particular plotline and set of characters, but its lean text show that King’s narrative and characterisation skills have not been blunted.
Verdict: An excellent end to the trilogy. 9/10