Scribner, 448 pages, $30
“End of Watch” is the end of the road for the marvelous and touching Bill Hodges series by master storyteller Stephen King. “Mr. Mercedes” introduced the murderous sociopath Brady Hartsfield who drove a Mercedes into a line of people waiting outside for a job fair to begin. Bill Hodges, a retired detective, is smart and hard-working. Together with his teenage helper, Jerome Robinson, and the psychologically broken Holly Gibney, Bill tracks down Brady and Holly clobbers him on the head hard enough to send him into a coma. “Finders Keepers” came after that, but it had little to do with the Mr. Mercedes story. At the very end of that book, however, a chilling revelation presaged the coming of “End of Watch,” the continuation of the Mr. Mercedes story.
Taking place six years after the events in “Mr. Mercedes,” Bill finally has stopped going by Brady’s hospital room to check on him. Although Brady is now awake, he is physically unable to move around and is hard to understand. Bill still gets the willies when he is in Brady’s presence. I know you’re in there, Bill taunts Brady.
Bill’s old police partner, Pete Huntley, is just about to retire, and he calls Bill to help with one last case. Izzy Jaynes, the detective who replaced Bill as Pete's partner, is ambitious and doesn’t want to be chained to a case that can’t be cleared with lightning speed, especially one that has potential woo-woo elements attached. The mother of one of Brady’s victims has killed her handicapped daughter and then killed herself. Maybe. When Bill and Holly show up at the crime scene, Izzy has already written the case off as a murder/suicide, but Pete, Bill, and Holly think there’s something more to it. Holly finds an old electronic game — a Zappit — shoved down in the mother’s easy chair, and that’s the true beginning of this concluding novel.
That innocent-looking Zappit is slowly revealed to be the conduit for the madness that still festers in Brady’s untethered soul. In perfect fashion, author King slowly builds his story and at the midpoint, begins to unleash his thrilling revelations and clever resolutions that tumble down to the poignant ending. His attention to detail and ability to neatly pull everything together is legendary.
This was a very satisfying read. Here’s an MBTB star!