Posts Tagged ‘brady hartsfield’



Stephen King wasn’t messing around when he closed “Finders Keepers” – the second book in his Bill Hodges trilogy – with that singular word (a reference to a framed photo falling over). King had hinted that the evil genius that wreaked such havoc in the first book (“Mr. Mercedes”) hadn’t completely shuffled off this mortal coil, and he was serious. Deadly serious.

Yes indeed, Brady Hartsfield, one of King’s most despicable villains, is alive and plotting all new horrible things in “End of Watch,” the satisfying conclusion to this crackerjack detective series.

After a brief opening chapter that flashes back five years to the scene of the original crime – where Hartsfield mowed down several people with a stolen Mercedes – we are re-introduced to retired police officer/now private investigator Bill Hodges, sitting in his doctor’s waiting room. He’s our everyman hero, trying to cope with aging, his distrust of technology and people in general. After a phone call from his former police partner about a local murder-suicide with ties to that earlier crime, Hodges dashes out of the waiting room and is once again drawn into Hartsfield’s web.

But how, King’s “constant readers” may ask, can Hartsfield be doing anything? When we last saw him, he appeared to be a vegetable residing in a Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic. As the aforementioned “clack” suggested, there’s something very dangerous going on behind those seemingly dead eyes, and King taps his supernatural bag of tricks to explain just how Hartsfield plans to destroy Hodges and all those whom he feels have wronged him (a good portion of the book’s final third could be renamed “Brady Hartsfield – How I Did It”). No spoilers here, but you may never look at your handheld electronic device the same way again.

King brings back characters from the first two books (my favorite: the socially awkward Holly Gibney, Hodges’ partner at the detective agency) and introduces a few new ones. He excels once again by giving all of them human traits and foibles, making the reader wonder and worry about who will remain standing as the story hurtles toward an inevitable standoff between Hodges and Hartsfield (a warning to the squeamish, there are several frank depictions of suicide in this story).

As the book’s title suggests, there is finality and loss in the final pages. Readers may find themselves wiping away a few tears as this well-written, involving series comes to an end.


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In 2008, in the foggy early-morning hours in an unnamed Midwestern city, something horrific happens to a group of innocent people waiting in line at a job fair. Since this is the opening of “Mr. Mercedes,” the latest novel by Stephen King, you might expect something supernatural to be the cause, but the title character is all too human. It’s someone you might hire to fix your computer or who would drive an ice-cream truck in your neighborhood.

King has written a straight-up detective novel here, a page-turner without a ghoul or ghost in sight, but plenty of well-drawn characters. After the gruesome opening chapter, King gets down to what he does best, the business of introducing us to his key players.

First up, there’s retired detective Bill Hodges, who left the police force months ago without ever solving the now-famous crime. He’s the relatable everyman character that you identify with and root for, who’s becoming bored and complacent (and possibly suicidal) in retirement. Then one day a lengthy and taunting letter arrives with his daily mail from someone claiming to be the “perk.”

Not long thereafter, the reader meets Brady Hartsfield, the self-described “perk” (Hartsfield, who thinks he’s using police jargon, means “perp” for perpetrator). He’s a quiet, intelligent and disturbed young man who works two jobs (at a big electronics store and delivering ice cream), has a basement lair full of technology and a more than disturbing relationship with his alcoholic mother.

No one can create a villain quite like King. Brady is the product of his upbringing and environment. You pity and fear him at the same time.

Then the deadly cat-and-mouse game begins. Hodges gets pulled back into the case and enlists the help of a college-age neighbor kid who helps him negotiate and understand the world of computers, chat rooms and hard drives that have passed him by. While Hartsfield, initially claiming to never want to commit another crime, begins to slowly plot a new and even deadlier one.

And this is where King excels, doling out just a little bit of information on the crime here, filling in a little more background on his characters there, switching points of view between the two main characters and introducing secondary ones that may or may not make it to the final pages.

It’s a rather short read, by King standards (just over 400 pages), but all the elements come together in a very public, potentially explosive finale (with a surprising post script). King fans may find themselves furiously turning pages long into the night.

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