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The Bill Hodges Trillogy: My Thoughts

The Bill Hodges trilogy is a trilogy of novels by Stephen King.  Stephen King is one of my all time favorite authors ever.  Even if a couple of his books left me headdesking in dismay.  I’m looking at you, Dreamcatcher.

The Bill Hodges trilogy consists of Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, and as of this past week, End of Watch.  In fact, when I wasn’t writing in my own current project, virtually all of my free time was spent listening to the audio version of End of Watch from start to finish.

I absolutely loved Mr. Mercedes.  In hindsight, I find myself wondering why it took so long to listen to it?  I’d bought the book off when it came out, but it was almost an entire year later when I actually got around to listening to it.  I don’t remember a lot from that time, but I’m guessing I had a lot of books in my cue I considered higher priorities.  Regardless of what my reasoning was at the time, though, I did eventually get around to reading it, and I loved the shit out of that book.  I just couldn’t put it down.  I thoroughly regretted having to hit pause to call the cab, because then, assuming the cab didn’t flake out on me like it’ll occasionally do, I only had around ten to twenty minutes to see what happens next!

The closest thing to a criticism I could formulate in my head at the time was that I was really sure introducing us to Mr. Mercedes right out the gate instead of sticking with Bill from start to finish kind of took away from the mystery.  Then again, Stephen King isn’t really the kind of guy you read for mysteries.  Also, by the time I made it up to part two of the book, I was already willing to forgive King for it.  It was less about figuring out who Mr. Mercedes was, and more about the epic game of cat and other cat Bill Hodges and Mr. Mercedes were engaged in.  All of which ended with a very satisfying beatdown with a “happy slapper”.

Finders Keepers was also good from start to finish.  The worst thing I could really say about it was that it was a bit on the predictable side.  I already knew what was going to happen more often than I didn’t, but somehow, that didn’t ruin the listening experience.  Perhaps it was the pros, or perhaps the reader (who is the same for all three books) is really good at holding my attention.

Then I got to the end of Finders Keepers, and found myself dreading book 3.  We had a really good run with a universe that was grounded in reality, free from ghosties and ghoulies and psychic nonsense.  I read a lot of books with that stuff in it as well, and it’s fine all things considered, but we spent two whole books establishing that there’s no such thing as psychics…  Only for Brady, AKA: Mr. Mercedes, to start showing psychic powers at the end of book 2.

So yeah, I went into book 3 expecting the worst.  Indeed, I wasn’t exactly THRILLED with Brady becoming some sort of body snatcher killing people through what has got to be the most convoluted thing I’ve read since Uprooted.  I could write an entire article ALONE about how much I hated Uprooted, but let’s stay focused.

However, once you make peace with the fact this is going to be a thing…  It’s actually pretty good.  I can’t remember the name of the villain in Finders Keepers anymore, but I really couldn’t bring myself to hate him like I could for Brady.  My god, Brady.  Maybe the Finders Keepers villain was supposed to be a bit more sympathetic, but man, King really knew how to make it personal when Brady was involved.  By the end of Mr. Mercedes, I couldn’t wait for that guy to get what was coming to him, and I was practically begging someone to shoot that guy in the head when the final conflict in End of Watch took place.

I won’t spoil the end, but let’s just say this much: if you read the Bill Hodges books up to this point, Brady’s defeat is very ironic.

So in the end, I ended up enjoying all three of the Bill Hodges books.  The worst I can really say about the trilogy as a whole is that book 2 was probably the weakest, and even then, it wasn’t bad.  Compared to the other books, it felt like an excuse to kill time while Brady woke up from his brain damaged state and learned how to fuck with people.  When filler is done right, it can be just as entertaining as everything else in the series.

All three books are read by Will Patton.  Patton is a man of about three or four voices tops, and about seventy-five percent of them sound like senior citizens from Boston, but I’ve definitely had worse readers than this.  Although he doesn’t have much in diversity, I’m still able to recognize each character he assumes the perspective of, and I’m never wondering who this guy is or that guy is at any point.  Unless, of course, it’s a new character, or a throw away character for one chapter, but the books themselves do a good job of cluing you in that this is a new guy, or this guy’s not going to be around long.

Overall, I highly recommend these books.  It took a herculean effort to put them down and go back to the real world, which is a compliment I haven’t given a book in quite a while.  Go for it.

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