BOOK RE­VIEWS

Crime Scene - - CONTENTS - BY STEPHEN KING By An­dre Paine

Check­ing out Stephen King’s End Of Watch, plus the lat­est books from Mark Billing­ham, Donna Leon, Harry Bingham, Peter Robin­son and more.

Al­though he some­times dab­bled in the genre, Stephen King re­ally be­came a crime writer in 2014 with Mr Mercedes – a nasty, supremely read­able thriller about an ex-cop pur­su­ing the psy­chopath who mowed down a crowd of peo­ple in a grey Mercedes SL500. King’s now com­pleted a tril­ogy fea­tur­ing his re­tired Mid­west­ern de­tec­tive Bill Hodges. In this third book, Hodges has be­come gaunt and sick; per­haps that ti­tle hints he won’t be com­ing back.

Sev­eral years af­ter the slaugh­ter, the ail­ing Hodges is still ob­sessed with Mr Mercedes. While a blow to the head has con­signed the killer, Brady Harts­field, to a brain in­jury clinic, Hodges sus­pects him of ma­lin­ger­ing in or­der to es­cape jus­tice.

The sly Harts­field has par­tially re­cov­ered but some­thing’s been rewired in his brain – maybe it was Hodges’ ‘happy slap­per’ (an old sock loaded with ball bear­ings), or the doc­tor ex­per­i­ment­ing with dodgy drugs from Bo­livia. Al­though sup­pos­edly trapped in­side his dam­aged mind, there are ru­mours of un­ex­plained phe­nom­ena in Harts­field’s hos­pi­tal room: taps and lights be­ing turned on by them­selves.

Per­haps it was un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect Stephen King to write three nov­els with­out re­sort­ing to typ­i­cal hor­ror tropes, but at least he does a de­cent job of knit­ting to­gether the para­nor­mal and pro­ce­dural. As Hodges and his tech-savvy, so­cially awk­ward as­sis­tant Holly Gib­ney in­ves­ti­gate sev­eral sus­pi­cious sui­cides, King height­ens the sus­pense by switch­ing back in time and re­veal­ing the slow stir­ring of this venge­ful mon­ster from his cata­tonic state. Harts­field even­tu­ally con­cocts a mur­der­ous plan that ri­vals the most no­to­ri­ous cult leader for psy­chotic self-be­lief.

Com­pared to the en­tirely plau­si­ble mo­tor­ing may­hem of Mr Mercedes, the plot to End Of Watch is as fan­tas­tic as it is elab­o­rate – a per­fect storm of telekine­sis, tech­nol­ogy and ter­ror. Harts­field uses his ac­quired mind power to con­trol his vic­tims like hu­man drones, via a game gad­get fea­tur­ing hyp­notic pink fish and Wi-fi. When Hodges warns a char­ac­ter to guard their thoughts, it reads like one of Den­nis Wheat­ley’s hoary oc­cult thrillers.

De­spite the strain­ing of credulity that might test more finicky crime read­ers, King never loses his grip on a nar­ra­tive that leads in­ex­orably to a fi­nal, bloody bat­tle be­tween good and evil in a snow­bound hunt­ing camp –look out for some stu­pen­dous gore. If End Of Watch doesn’t quite match the cat-and­mouse in­ge­nu­ity of the first two books, it’s still a solid send-off to the tril­ogy. Hope­fully, it won’t be the end of King’s crime ca­reer.

“a per­fect storm of telekine­sis and ter­ror”

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