Goodbye, Holly Gibney

End of Watch

By Stephen King

Hard to believe that any diehard King fans haven’t already devoured his really fine conclusion to his Bill Hodges trilogy. So, this is for the somewhat fans and those for whom King is simply a master pulp artist. It’s good and worth the short time you’ll spend with it—short because per usual, the novel moves along at light speed despite its four-hundred plus pages.

The strength of the final novel in the series isn’t really the plotting, though those who value the plot above all else with find racing along with the Finders Keepers gang and vindictive madman Brady terrifically satisfying. King’s pacing here is much better than in the first two novels, Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, primarily toward the end, where King often has a tendency to drag things out until you’re skipping every other page.

The strength here, as is true of the first two novels, are the primary characters, all of whom you’ll find engaging, particularly old Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and evil boy Brady Hartsfield.

Of these three, Holly stands head and shoulders among King’s best and most memorable creations. This is because he has graced her with the most memorable quirks, phobias, the best heart you can imagine, a shining innate intelligence, and, something King does so admirably well, her own personal, distinctive, and unforgettable vocabulary. Add to this that she has the best arc of progression, from the painfully reclusive woman of book one to the stronger, more confident, thanks to Bill, woman of this final novel. Readers will have their own opinions, but many will agree, “Holly, it’s poopy we won’t be seeing you again.” That is, unless King, who obviously likes her much, summons her back on stage for an encore, perhaps in another crime series.

As fans certainly know, King is a man of years, probably wondering like many of us how the heck that happened, and how the world will shepherd us out. Enter an ill Bill Hodges, which gives nothing away since we know that from the get-go. Bill’s a smart and crafty guy, a man retired from a rough and ready profession who possesses a deep well of compassion and a sharp sense of justice. Yes, in this sunset novel, Bill is an old man about to make his exit, a victim of the frailty and disease of aging. Of course, we’re routing for him, hoping a miracle will occur, as they many times does in King novels. But most of all, we hope that if he has to exit, he does so in a halo of victory with all of his dignity. That’s our hope for him, and it’s for readers to discover if in fact that is his end, or if he ends.

Brady, on the other hand, is an evil individual we cheer along to a demise we pray will be exquisitely tortured. Because he lacks dimension, being evil from the start, with no real arc apart from intensifying badness, of the troika, he proves the least interesting, or truer, one with whom we can’t identify. Still, though, due to his intelligence, his paralytic situation, and the always intriguing concept of psychokinesis, he makes an appropriate villain.

Plot, then, you ask? Simple, Bill suspects there’s more going on in the head of said apparent vegetable. He’s correct, as Brady discovers the power of psychokinesis hidden within him and uses it to extract his pound of flesh from humankind and Bill Hodges in particular. w/c

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