“King works his customary storytelling magic, unspooling the plot threads almost as quickly as readers can turn the pages…”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
This is the final book in the Bill Hodges trilogy that began with Mr Mercedes in Spring of 2015, continued with Finders Keepers in that Autumn and concludes here just twelve months later (Taking notes G.R.R Martin?).
Before we go any further, there is some information in this review that some may consider to be a spoiler, but if you follow Steve on Twitter, or have seen his chat with George Martin you’ll know what I am talking about already so read on.
This trilogy has seen a shift in Mr King’s writing style and although there is a heavy supernatural influence throughout the books, Bill Hodges is your regular Joe, a retired cop with not much to do and nowhere to go until he meets the Mercedes Killer Brady Hartsfield.
The first novel ends with Hartsfield’s plans of going out with a bang being thwarted and him in a permanently vegetative state. Bill has found a focus, something to do with his endless days and in so doing has accidentally saved Holly Gibney; together they form a Private Detective Agency known as Finders Keepers and in the second novel King goes on a tangent, leaving Hartsfield slowly rotting in his hospital room and except for an occasional visit to prod this particular hornet’s nest Brady doesn’t feature.
In this third and final instalment Brady is back, his body may still be in that hospital room but somehow, no matter how impossible it may seem, Brady is free to pursue his dream of killing all those youngsters that escaped him when Holly turned his lights off. King does that really bloody irritating thing whereby he tells us that he plans on killing off a character way before it actually happens, and in this case, if it happens at all. Page 79 he tells us in an interview, it’s not a spoiler because I tell you Bill Hodges has Pancreatic cancer on page 79 and anyway how can you spoil a book by giving away a few facts, it’s all about the journey after all. Well Steve, this Constant Reader would have to agree with you in this case. Knowing Bill has cancer, even before I’d opened the book to the first page didn’t spoil a single moment. So who’s going to win this final showdown? A vegetative Brady Hartsfield or a cancer riddled septuagenarian (near as dammit)? Even 50 pages from the end I wouldn’t have put more than 50 pence on the outcome with any surety.
There is an awkward little flashback chapter that I thought perhaps was superfluous to the story, but it’s not long and it doesn’t spoil the flow that much so it’s not really a negative as we’re soon back to the action.
As with every book written by King, the characters are well rounded and have a realness about them, they have a camaraderie that is believable and they have ordinary everyday attributes, pot bellies, receding hairlines, anxieties and irritating tics; no buffed bronzed menfolk, no stacked blondes with gravity defying boobs here, just real people, people we walk past every day without looking twice and that for me is a huge plus. I like characters I can identify with, I like heroes who trip over their own laces and I like scared women who, instead of screaming for the nearest man, grab a sock filled with marbles and smack the baddie over the head.
Don’t go expecting any happy ever afters though, this is Stephen King, he hates that kind of thing.
Added 27th July 2016