Mr Mercedes – Stephen King

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In the frigid pre-dawn hours of a distressed mid-western city, hundreds of folk are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver ploughs through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up and charging again. Eight people are killed, fifteen are wounded, the killer escapes.

Bill Hodges is a retired cop, depressed, lonely and still haunted by the unsolved crime. When out of the blue he receives a crazed letter from someone claiming to be the Mercedes killer, and threatening further acts of violence, Hodges becomes hell-bent on tracking him down and preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born and is preparing to kill again. Only Hodges together with a couple of misfit friends can apprehend the killer in this high stakes race against time, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim hundreds, even thousands.

OK. I admit it. Mr Mercedes is the first Stephen King novel I have ever read. Not that I haven’t tried before, but nothing has ever ‘grabbed’ me and made me want to follow it through to the end. That said, I’m not really a fan of the horror genre when it comes to my choice of reading material. Mr Mercedes isn’t a horror story, it’s a classic crime thriller and I loved it.

It took me while to get used to some of the characters as they certainly were a real rag-tag bunch of misfits, with Holly being the most difficult to frame in my mind, but the group dynamic was one that worked really well.  Bill Hodges is a truly depressed and broken man at the beginning of the tale, but once his ‘scooby gang’ is brought together the change is fast and you can see how he would have been a great detective in his police days.

In contrast the downward spiral of Brady Hartfield as the book progresses is slow, yet clearly visible and perfectly timed to the pace of the novel.  It was almost a delight seeing him lose his controls and clarity of purpose as Hodges closes in.

I’ve read many mixed or poor reviews of Mr Mercedes, and surprisingly most of these seem to have come from lifelong Stephen King fans. Personally I think this is probably down to the change in genre, because as a prolific crime fiction reader I think King has done a great job myself, so I’m really glad to note that this is the first in a trilogy as it means I have more to look forward too.