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Tag Archives: Trilogy
How exactly does one write a review about the last book in a trilogy as a stand-alone article, without spoiling anything of the two preceding books? Well, perhaps it can go something like this: if you haven’t yet read Blake Crouch’s novel Pines and its sequel Wayward, then you have no business reading The Last Town. Go read them, then get back to this review.
…Back already? You mean you read Pines and Wayward already? …Are you lying to me? Well, just remember this: when it comes to venturing into this SPOILER-ish territory, you’re only going to spoil yourself. But, just because I hate spoilers, myself, I’ll try to keep things “safe” in this review of The Last Town, the concluding volume to Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines trilogy.
To recap, in Pines, Secret Service agent Ethan Burke found himself in the titular Idaho town in his search for two missing agents, only to get quickly immersed in a mystery of Lynchian (and Lynch-inspired) proportions. In Wayward, Ethan had resigned himself to the town’s falsely blissful ways—yet a building undercurrent of tension lures him out of the faux-reverie and into action.
The Last Town picks up mere hours after the proverbial shit has hit the fan in Wayward’s cliffhanger ending, and doesn’t let up for a second. To call it fast-paced doesn’t begin to cover it; except for a few key flashback scenes (more on that in a moment), the rest of the book is taut with tension. Action, suspense, grisly gore, and a few truly unpredictable sequences run rampant here, as is Mr. Crouch’s signature style. All the major characters are back and (mostly) in fine form. I’ll admit, I felt that a few characters’ fates were a bit abrupt, but the book’s ultimate outcome was appropriately satisfying.
The main issue that I had with this book also has to do with its pacing and those flashbacks. Pines used flashbacks—of a sort—to hallucinatory effects in the very structure of the narrative. However, the very punchline to that book was what drove the plots to both Wayward and The Last Town; so when you read the flashbacks in these books, that’s all they are: just flashbacks. Unfortunately, this also muffles the deep mystery that the first book had, so the two later books are more about the action and suspense than they are about discovery and revelation. I miss that sense of mystery; but on the other hand, Mr. Crouch smartly avoided adding twists and turns for novelty’s sake, which could have easily hurt the overall plot (as certain TV series have done, and subsequently suffered from—Twin Peaks and LOST, I’m looking at you!). He deftly tells the rest of the Great Big Story in a straight-edged sweep, and you know what? It worked well.
Finally, I have to admit I’m excited about the upcoming FOX series based on these books, starring Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Terrance Howard, and a host of other actors, with the pilot directed by M. Night Shyamalan. In the afterward to Pines, Blake Crouch admits that the book started out as his meditation on what was really going on in Twin Peaks—and an attempt at concluding that show’s convoluted and unfinished story lines. I think that with the Wayward Pines trilogy, Mr. Crouch has more than bested Twin Peaks’ continuity, by approaching his own mysterious town with a grand plan in mind from the outset. The story lines all very neatly tie together in The Last Town. Let’s just hope that, assuming the Wayward Pines TV series is a hit and is renewed long enough, the events of The Last Town will also be brought into the mix, and like this book, make for a blood-soaked, action-packed conclusion to a tense and surreal saga.
Stephen King is definitely the Alfred Hitchcock of the literary world. It’s likely he could take an inner city phone book and turn it into a riveting novel. Mr. Mercedes isn’t a phone book, but it sure as hell ranks up there with some of Hitchcock’s greatest hits. In fact, one might say that Mr. Mercedes is King’s Psycho.
King rocks the suspense/thriller genres here. Taking a step away from the deeply supernatural fare he’s known for, he proves that he is, without doubt, one of the world’s top writers. That he continues to come up with fresh material and interesting stories is further testament to his prowess. But he doesn’t leave the horror out, either. In fact, there’s one scene that will be impossible to get out of my head, probably for the rest of my life.
Mr. Mercedes tells the story of retired cop, Bill Hodges, who has taken to heavy drinking and flirting with suicide night after night since he left the force. Before he left, there was one particular unsolved case that haunted him, and continues to do so months and years later. An unknown subject stole a Mercedes and rammed it into a crowd of hundreds of local unemployed people, killing eight and injuring many others. The perpetrator was never caught, and that is what bothers Hodges the most. When the killer reaches out and taunts Hodges in the hopes of pushing the overweight cop past the mental tipping point, it instead revives Hodges’ passion, and renews his intent to take Mr. Mercedes down, even if it’s the last thing he ever does.
Hodges sets out to bring a killer to justice, and in the process manages to fall in love and care about not only himself, but others as well. Especially his estranged daughter, whose absence from his life is one of his greatest failures. Now though, he seeks redemption, and believes he can only find it by catching the murderer. Along the way, Hodges gathers an odd, ragtag team of crime solvers: a school-aged neighbor kid who happens to be somewhat of a genius, and a bipolar woman who turns out to be an incredible asset, despite her mental challenges. This latter character might remind you of Chloe from 24. In another comparison, this team is very much like characters from The Drawing of the Three, volume two in King’s epic Dark Tower series. In young Jerome we find shades of Odetta, and in bipolar Holly we find pieces of Eddie Dean, the young heroin addict.
The antagonist, on the other hand, is one of the creepier King has ever put on paper. One might compare him to Pennywise the Clown, only without the makeup and killer smile. However, Pennywise’s evil intent is alive and thriving here. There’s even a vague reference in this book, as well as nods to several other King books.
Without giving anything away, it’s worth your while to take your time with this book, in spite of the overwhelming urge you’ll likely experience to zip through to the stunning conclusion as quickly as possible. King handles tension and horror as masterfully as ever and his character development is in tremendous form. We find ourselves rooting for the underdog protagonists, despite the many mistake both sides make that puts everyone’s lives in peril.
Mr. Mercedes is available in hardcover through Scribner and is the first in a trilogy centered on the murders that take place in this first episode. Finders Keepers, the second volume, is slated to be released in early 2015.