Name: End of Watch
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Price: Rs 799
After having successfully terrified generations with tales of demonic clowns, possessed hotels and girls with both low self esteem and telekinesis, universally acknowledged master of horror Stephen King recently turned his attention to hardboiled detective fiction, with the Bill Hodges trilogy, which culminates in End of Watch. Seven years after a maniac driver plowed down a crowd with his Mercedes, killing several people in the process, retired police detective Bill Hodges and his eccentric but brilliant partner Holly Gibney, who together run a miniscule PI agency, are called in to help investigate an apparent murder-suicide with links to the Mercedes affair, which was narrated in the first book, Mr Mercedes.
While the perpetrator of that crime, the psychotic Brady Hartsfield — Hodge’s nemesis and primary antagonist of the series — is lying comatose in a governement hospital, courtesy Gibney’s aim with a sock stuffed with ball bearings, she and Hodges soon have reason to believe that Hartsfield is still capable of malevolence in the world.
Meanwhile, Hodges has more troubles — like his creator, he’s pushing 70, has a suspicious ache in his stomach, and he worries over the sensitive Gibney being able to find her way in the world if he moves on to the great beyond. A medical diagnosis confirms the worst, and Hodges finds himself in the unenviable position of having to stop a supernatural killer before he reaches his literal “end of watch”, referred to when a policeman retires from his duties and responsibilities.
Terror by telepathy is an old motif of King’s and he weaves it into a contemporary setting, dominated by social media and very, very public lives, with the characteristic elan that has made him one of the world’s highest selling authors. And in this world of five second-soundbytes and 144 character headlines, King still manages to capture his reader’s attention and hold it, new message notifications be damned, with the oldest form of entertainment in the world, a well told story. Hodges might carry a notebook and pen while his younger colleagues rock iPads and Stylii, but he’s got his gut and gumption (and Gibney). For, at the end of the day, all the hi-tech gadgetry in the world can’t save you from an evil, crazed telepath; sometimes, you just need to have belief.
Told in present progressive, End of Watch has elements of the classic hard-boiler as well as King’s usual departures from the strictures of genre. Read this for the sheer pleasure of the discerning voice of its celebrated author.
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