The opening pages of Mr Mercedes found retired detective Bill Hodges contemplating suicide, driven to this low point by the sadistic ‘Mercedes Killer,’ Brady Hartfield. It makes sense then that End of Watch – the final novel in the King’s trilogy – revives this theme, and augments it to the nth degree.
Mr Mercedes and Finders Keepers flirted with the supernatural elements that have become King’s trademark – but End of Watch goes all in. Hartfield might be confined to a wheelchair, but through a variety of circumstances, he has developed psychic powers, which enable him to fulfil – or attempt to fulfil, at the very least – his destiny as the self-described ‘Suicide Prince.’ It’s up to Hodges, his Finders Keepers partner, Holly, and their pal Jerome, to stop Hartfield once and for all.
End of Watch is just as engrossing and relentless as its predecessors, though it lacks that sprinkle of magic that made Mr Mercedes and Finders Keepers true standouts. Brady’s plot doesn’t lack imagination – his progression from invalid to body-hopper is fantastic, and the manner in which he plagues teenage minds and leads them to ending their own lives is truly haunting – but the overall set-up, leading to the climactic confrontation between Hodges and Hartfield feels undercooked, and plays out predictably. This whole series has keen King play homage to, as well as deconstruct and revitalise, the conventions of the hard-boiled crime novel – its grand finale deserved something a little more spectacular, if not in scope, then at least in execution.
That aside, King’s Mercedes trilogy has been a blast, a true reading highlight from the past few years. End of Watch brings satisfactory closure, and while I’m saddened we won’t read more about Hodges and his crew, as always I’m excited for where King takes us next.
Imprint: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Publish Date: 7-Jun-2016
Country of Publication: United Kingdom
Stephen King’s Finders Keepers tells the story of two young men – Morris Bellamy in 1978 and Peter Saubers in 2009 – who discover, and become obsessed with, the work of esteemed novelist and Salinger-like icon, John Rothstein.
Disgusted by the ending of the final Jimmy Gold novel, and determined to see his creator pay (or find evidence that he planned to make amends in future works), Bellamy plots and executes his revenge; a late-night assault on Rothstein’s remote homestead, which sees the author killed, and a trove of notebooks and thousands of dollars stolen. But before Bellamy can authenticate his loot, he finds himself in prison for a different crime, and sentenced to life in prison. His final act before he’s locked away is to bury his treasure in a secluded recreational park not far from his family home. However many years pass, unless he is physically unable to do so, Morris Bellamy will return for the notebooks. Cut to 2009, and Peter Saubers happens across the money and notebooks; and while the money provides much-needed assistance for his financially-strapped family, it’s the notebooks that make the biggest impact. For a time, Peter’s discovery seems every bit an impossible blessing. Until Morris Bellamy walks into his life, hell-bent on recovering what he feels is rightfully his…
Finders Keepers is the second novel in the Bill Hodges series, and there are plenty of overt links between the two books; Peter’s father was injured during the Mercedes killings that were the focus of Mr. Mercedes, and Hodges is still dealing with the repercussions of that novel’s climax. But this continuity feels shoe-horned in places. Hodges doesn’t make an appearance until well over a hundred pages into Finders Keepers, and his involvement in the novel’s central conflict is a tad contrived. It’s an odd choice by one of fiction’s grandmasters, because Saubers and Bellamy are strong enough characters to carry the novel alone, and indeed they both do for the most part. Hodges isn’t an essential cog in this wheel. His appearance doesn’t diminish the novel’s potency – in fact, there’s some nice build-up to a third Hodges novel – but this story’s spotlight should be cast on Saubers and Bellamy. They are the key players, and they are the characters who resonate.
That perplexing narrative choice aside, Finders Keepers is Stephen King in fine form. Filled with the author’s signature blend of ingenious plot, complex characters, and smooth prose that’s able to keep readers riveted through the final pages, he remains an unrivalled storyteller. As readers, we should rejoice that King is nothing like the reclusive Rothstein. What would the literary landscape look like without his output?
Imprint: Hodder & Stoughton
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publish Date: 02-Jun-2015
Country of Publication: United Kingdom