Terrible Reviews: End of Watch

I’ve just finished Stephen King’s End of Watch, the final installment of his Mr. Mercedes series. And I want to say I enjoyed it. Well — I did enjoy it, but I’m also really, really confused and kinda disappointed by it.

Spoilers below, but the novel is like two years old, so… you know …

The entire premise of the novel is a head-scratcher — Brady Hartsfield, the psycho killer from the first novel, has woken up from his coma with psychic abilities thanks to experimental drugs administered by a fame-chasing doctor. (That’s the One Big Lie — if you can swallow that, the book is fine!) Now, he’s reaching out through mind-control to induce suicide on a massive scale.

Which … okay. It’s a fascinating idea. And a horrific one. It’s a great idea for a Stephen King novel, in fact. Problem is — there hasn’t been a speck of the supernatural at work in either of the first two novels in the series. And all of a sudden, the big bad can do incredible things with his mind and a little game boy device and — everybody in the story just buys it. They just do!

It’s just a bizarre turn in a series that didn’t need a woo-woo bent. What was King thinking?

And the end is an absolute bummer. Hodges, the lovable grouch, succumbs — not to the attacks leveled by Brady, but to the cruel whim of cancer. And not moments after securing the dispatch of the big bad, but several months later. With no fanfare. He dies “off camera”, as it were, with King showing us an upbeat Hodges at his birthday party in the treatment center, upbeat and fighting, and then cutting to almost a year later at his funeral.

Again — wtf?

It may be true-to-life, and maybe that’s the point — but crikey. We read detective novels not to live in the real world of mundane (if horrible) cancer deaths, but to live vicariously by the seat of our pants. I’d have been happier if Hodges and Hartsfield managed to off each other in the end, or even if Hodges succumbed a few days or weeks later. But months? He finishes the baddie and looks ready to give cancer a run — but nope, surprise, he’s dead anyway?

Mr. Mercedes is a detective story — the finding of clues, the glimpses into the mind of a psycho, the inevitable pursuit and capture. King is great at those things, and all three novels tell a great detective story. But this final chapter is just laden with so much else.

Again, it’s not a problem with the content. I don’t mind the story of an aging protagonist struggling with cancer. I don’t mind the concept of a murderer using mind control to commit his crimes. In fact, that’s kind of awesome! But you can’t shoehorn those things into an established story world just for sharknados and giggles.

I whole-heartedly recommend Mr. Mercedes, the first book in the series. As for the later installations?

What was he thinking?

Verdict: Two and a half out of five daisies pushing through the fresh-tilled earth.

This terrible review is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday.

10 thoughts on “Terrible Reviews: End of Watch

  1. Have not read DOCTOR SLEEP yet myself. Last King book I bought and read was his collection of short stories from 2015 THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS which for me was a definite hit and miss affair as far as quality storytelling went.


  2. I’ve had similar experiences with King novels. Everyone raved about The Stand. I read it, followed it well enough but just never felt … connected enough to it. Sounds like I’d like the first books in this series and drift off as well.

    That does have to be frustrating though, to go that far in a series and then have it falter that way. Maybe King should have added another book instead of trying to tie things up the way he did… or maybe one less book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved The Stand, actually. One of my Lit Teacher colleagues proudly proclaims it her favorite book ever (which I can’t endorse!).

      This series, I would have ended it a book sooner. Maybe even two books sooner. Kinda like The Matrix — the first one is just fine on its own.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I liked The Stand for a while, but one day I set it down and three months later (I was about half-way through by this point), I looked at it by my bed and realized I’d never felt even the slightest urge to pick it up again. Given how many other books I had waiting in the wings to read, I decided that was a sign… and I’ve never looked back.

        But… different things appeal to different people. And things appeal differently at different points in our lives… that was in the 90s. Who knows, maybe I’d react differently to it now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It doesn’t help, either, that it’s … I dunno … like eight thousand pages? But yeah, when you can put a book down and forget about it … that ain’t a good sign!

        I still recommend it though, if you can power through it!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, I might try it again someday. I tend to like big books (I just did a run of classic Russian novelists like Turgenev and Tolstoy, so it’s not a size thing). As I said, it’s been nearly twenty years…


Say something!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s