Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Book Review: End of Watch by Stephen King

Retired Detective Bill Hodges and his sidekick Holly find themselves investigating a recent spree of suicides. But all of the dead are connected by a common thread: each of them had been in previous contact with Brady Hartsfield, the notorious Mercedes Killer. 

“Because things can get better, and if you give them a chance, they usually do."

Reviewing this book brings up an internal debate about how one should rate a book using the standard star system. If a book is given a 5 star rating by myself, usually it will mean that I LOVED it, and the book was particularly special or unique, or just offered something different. But I do not think you can directly compare 5 star books to each other. For example, I gave Charlie the Choo Choo 5 stars, because it was such a cool, unique idea and I couldn’t fault it, for what IT was, but by no means is Charlie the Choo in the same league as Pet Sematary or 11/22/63 (both of which I also gave 5 stars). You get me? I think the genre, or even what the book is intending to be, also comes into play.

Another factor for me, is how it makes me FEEL. If a book can rip my heart out and stomp all over it, and if it does so in such an effective way, then yes, that book will be 5 stars for me. I’m admittedly quite an emotional person, I’ll cry at the drop of a hat, but it takes something special for me to produce literal tears when reading a book. And this is the reason why Stephen King is my favourite author – on numerous occasions he has been able to unlock that part of my heart and trigger the terrifying sight that is me ugly crying. End of Watch was one of those books. I’ll discuss why at the end of this review, as I need to get a bit spoilery in order to do so (but I WILL have a spoiler warning before this final part).

End of Watch was the most KING book of the trilogy. He’s a pro when it comes to crossing genres and throwing them all together into one big pot. The most obvious example of this is the Dark Tower series. It is very hard to simply categorise a lot of King books, as he likes to throw in a bit of horror with a bit of fantasy, adding in a dash of family drama, perhaps some romance too? Mr Mercedes and Finders Keepers were almost like King’s take on a detective/crime series, it had good story telling, with great character building (typical King, eh?) but then End of Watch comes and King is unable to unleash all the traits that we know and love him for. He goes back to his roots! It becomes UNPREDICTABLE – I thought the previous two books in the series felt a bit more generic and formulaic. So I really welcomed this shift in genre!

I had found Holly a tad irritating at the beginning of the trilogy and really wasn’t understanding why most people seemed to be a part of her fan club, but by the end I was a huge Holly fan. She had really grown on me, and her relationship with Hodges, as well as Jerome, was just so heartwarming. The father/daughter dynamic between Hodges and Holly felt very natural and was a bit of an emotional trigger for me. I really enjoyed the story itself in this one too, some bits were possibly a bit drawn out, I didn’t need all the technical details.

And that ending. Oh boy. King gets a lot of flack for his endings – which I don’t think is always deserved – but this one was absolutely perfect. I was so fucking nervous reading those last 50 pages or so, I really had no clue what twists and turns King was going to pull on me.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Hodges trilogy. I don’t necessarily think it’s his strongest work, but it has a lot of great themes in there, and some unforgettable characters. It’s just so nice to see King take risks and do something different so late in his career. End of Watch gets 5 stars from me!

Now for the SPOILERY part.

LOOK AWAY if you haven’t finished the trilogy…

Hodges’ death was just one of the most soul-crushing experiences I’ve ever had reading a book. We knew it was coming from quite early on in the final book, but it really didn’t lessen the blow. And that’s true in real life as well unfortunately. I was quite literally bawling my eyes out over those final pages. Then I set the book down, got myself together… started crying again minutes later. And then again. King manages to build these characters that we can really connect with and stay with you long after you close the book. And if King can build a story and introduce me to characters that have that much of an impact on me, then that book is getting a 5 star rating (even if it wasn’t perfect for me). Bill Hodges has cemented his place in my top King characters <3 


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