You know it’s a politicized time when the bad guy in a King novel loses points not strictly for being evil but for “living like Donald Trump.”
“It’s always darkest before the dawn,” King cheerfully reminds us at the very outset of this work of mayhem and murder, closing a trilogy devoted to retired detective Bill Hodges and investigative partner Holly Gibney. Yes, it is, and “darker than a woodchuck’s asshole,” too, reminding us that we’re in King’s New England, where weird things are always happening. Bill—well, his real first name is Kermit—has a doozy of a case from the very start: those weird things leapfrog back to the first volume, to a time, seven years before the present, when the perp of the so-called Mercedes Massacre drifted off into comaland. Throughout the trilogy, King has both honored and toyed with the conventions of hard-boiled crime fiction, and it seemed as if he’d be staking out that genre as his own; now, though, he steers back into the realm of horror that for sure belongs to him, for the baddie, Brady Hartsfield, who had merely been an incest-committing mass murderer before, has now acquired psychic powers and is experimenting merrily with ways to convince the innocent to kill themselves—and perhaps worse. Having lost some mobility, Brady is deeply ticked off—and, as King writes, “Being in a situation like that, who wouldn’t want to kill a bunch of people?” Right, and it’s up to Kermit/Bill and Holly to stop “Z-Boy,” as he’s now calling himself, from further mischief, very much more easily said than done. Suffice it to say that heavy machinery—having been run over, King hates cars, and having grown up when he did, he doesn’t have much use for gizmo technology, either—figures into both the crime and its cure, and suffice it to say that both are exceedingly messy.
Gleefully gross. And a few of the principals even outlive the tale, meaning there’s hope for a sequel, assuming King wants to play with the definition of trilogy, too....