I keep a checklist on my phone of all the Stephen King books out there that I use to keep track of which ones I own, in what format and whether I’ve read them or not. Dude’s got so many offerings that it’s hard to keep everything in my head and I’m not a big fan of buying the same book more than once, even at flea market or yard sale prices!
After writing about the four King books I read in 2018 and looking at my list, I realized that I’ve actually read more of his most recent dozen books than his first dozen. I dig this fact because it means I still have plenty of his works to read, but also it reminds me that he’s still spinning yarns that I can’t wait to get my hands on and tear through.
That’s how felt getting into the third book in the Bill Hodges trilogy which began with Mr. Mercedes then carried on with Finders Keepers and ended here with End Of Watch. In the first installment, retired detective Bill Hodges, a woman named Holly and a kid named Jerome figured out that Brady Hartsfield not only drove a car through a crowd of people looking for jobs but planned to blow up an auditorium filled with young girls watching their favorite boy band. Holly stopped him with a sock filled with ball bearings to the head.
In the second, Bill and Holly started working together and Hodges remained convinced that the apparently mindless Brady still had something going on in that sick head of his.
Let’s call this spoiler territory if you haven’t read the book. In End Of Watch, we find out that that’s exactly the case. When the survivors of Hartsfield’s rampage start to kill themselves, Hodges and Holly start to wonder about what’s going on.
Want to know what’s going on? Consider this another layer further into the spoiler zone. Okay, so, Brady’s doctor had been using an experimental drug on him in hopes that it would help his own career. Instead, it helped Brady discover a few extra-normal abilities like telekinesis and a knack for sending his consciousness into other people’s bodies. He found it all the easier when people stared at the demo screen of a fishing game on an outdated gaming tablet.
With access to the world once again, Brady put a huge evil plan into motion that required the repeated possession of the doctor and a hospital aid as well as tech support from an old co-worker. All of this worked towards his ultimate goal: creating an avalanche of suicides both pushed by him through the games or via social media copycats.
Hodges and Holly won’t just stand idly by as all this happens, of course, so — even though it all sounds crazy — they continue to investigate a case that even the cops don’t want to touch anymore. With a very real ticking clock, Hodges focuses all his efforts on stopping Brady’s scheme.
Without getting into the details of the end, I found it both thrilling, satisfying and sad. Having read The Outsider before this one, though, I did have some pretty major elements spoiled and yet I was still totally wrapped up in the proceedings. Also, even though I’m also wrapped up in it a bit myself (damn you Candy Crush), I also appreciate the overall question he asks of casual games leading to obsession and a lack of mental control.
If, like me, you enjoy pointing out what I like to call King Connections between his books, this one has a nice amount. It’s obviously already part of a series that goes on to include The Outsider to some extent. We also have a lead character with Shine-like powers, but this time he’s a villain. Said villain also lives in Room 217 for a while.
As in The Stand and other epics, the bad guy has a less than mental all-star working as a lackey (Library Al). Oh, and the whole thing ends in a snow-covered cabin, which brought Misery to mind. I love finding these recurring elements in his work!
Finally, I’d like to float an idea out there: Brady Hartsfield is up there when it comes to King’s most evil villains. I mean, this is a dude who doesn’t just want to kill people, but make them so depressed and sad that they off themselves. He’s also no slouch when it comes to making up wild, elaborate plans for doing exactly that.