In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows 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.
In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.
Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again.
Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.
Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.
The best way to sum up this psychological thriller is through one of Taylor Swift’s song lyrics:
It’ll leave you breathless, or with a nasty scar.
I don’t really feel like I can adequately judge how good this book is, seeing as this is my first Stephen King book, but I can say that if you’ve never read Stephen King before, this is a good place to start. Many of his books are apparently very heavy, and horrific, but this one was quite thrilling and relatively light. Obviously, because IT’S STEPHEN KING I definitely would not recommend it to anyone under the age of 16 at least. If you’re not used to reading psychological-thrillers, or gory, graphic, steamy books, then stay away. Otherwise, it really will leave you with “a nasty scar”.
Stephen King is truly King. The writing is amazing. There are small details here and there that any other writer would have missed out. For example, having the antagonist go back to the car because he’s forgotten to lock the door is an amazingly subtle detail that reiterates how careful he is about his crimes. Any other writer would have just had him walk away, but making him walk back to lock the car, a seemingly unnecessary action, is an incredibly delicate way of reminding the reader that the criminal is psychotic and leaves no error.
Another great part of this book is that there was no what is called: “deus ex machina“. This is a convenient intervention from heaven or a coincidence that neatly leads out protagonist out of trouble. Nothing in Mr Mercedes every happens without any effort on behalf of our characters. If they crack a password (and yes, they do), they have to find the password by rooting through credit cards, bills, photographs, etc. Although it’s still a little dubious that they get the password, the hard work that the characters have to go through distract a little from the kind of unrealistic element of this scene.
Another good thing about this was that it was original. Or, what I would normally call “refreshingly different”. Sure, it was a murder story, but it was largely psychological, with the murder happening though words. There was no direct murder (at least, not until we were largely into the book), and the game of cat and mouse was really nicely described. At all times, I knew who was “the fisherman” and who was “the fish”. However, as the psychological game Mr Mercedes plays starts to fail, he resorts to plain violence, and this is where the book starts to take a little more of a conventional plot turn. I think I would have liked it better if the novel was simply psychological-thriller instead of psychological-thriller-action.
The characters were a great aspect of the book, and the way we are alternatively taken into the minds of the two main characters, Detective Bill Hodges and Mr Mercedes Brady Hartsfield, was a great technique used by King to get us to sympathise with both characters, even the killer! There was an especially heart-wrenching moment in the book, and I feel like this was the saddest and more frustrating part of the book, when we were taken into the twisted past of Brady Hartsfield, and I just felt so much sorrow for him. The ability to be able to make the reader cry for a character on moment, and then hate them the next, is an ability to be envied.
Another great factor in making the characters feel realistic was the fact that they all had a plot line. They all had something they wanted, they all had their highs and lows. There was the moment when everything seemed to be going well – quite early for Bill, a little bit later for Brady. Then there was the moment where everything seemed to be lost and hopeless – quite early for Brady, quite late for Bill. The masterful thing here though, is the fact that the plot lines intersected. In fact, the lowest point for Bill was created by Brady, and vice versa. It’s extremely hard to keep two character plot lines going at once in the book and still keep the reader feeling engaged and interested in both characters, and King has done this effortlessly.
The main problem I had with the book was the beginning was a little too long-winded. The scene was set nicely, but it just took to long to get to the point. The reader wants to be immediately inside the book, and although setting the scene is an important part of any book, spending too long on it can jeopardise the reader’s interest. Credit where it’s due, however, and the introduction of the book was amazing. We are introduced to three characters who are set up completely, with backstories, etc, in only the space of a few mere pages. An emotional connection has been created within such a short amount of time, and this is certainly worth commending.
Another problem I had with this was the completely predictable plot twist in the middle of the story. This is what brings Detective Bill Hodges his darkest hour, and although it was meant to be built up with a sense of foreboding and suspense, I knew immediately from the moment I met this character that he/she was going to die (trying to avoid spoilers!). I was hoping that he would go another way but obviously, the emotional wellbeing of his readers does not concern King, and so he can kill whoever he wants.
Stephen King is definitely King for a reason, for he is truly the King of suspense. Eventually, the muscles in your body get tenser and tenser as you read, the handle of apprehension wound tighter and tighter until BAM everything is released all at once at the end in a few frantic last scenes. The best thing about the suspense, though, is the way it creeps up on your slowly. There is nothing forced about it. Rather than it being a part of the story, and it being added to the story, it feels like it’s more of a side-effect of the story. It’s just there, and it’s so small and insignificant at first that you don’t notice it until something happens all at once and it jumps up from the small corner that it has been hiding in and grabs you by the throat until you can’t breathe because you’re so scared of what is going to happen over the next page.
Mr Mercedes, what can I say? A few flaws, but the pros massively outweighs the cons. See you at the second book.
Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 8/10
Mr Mercedes is out now. Buy at your local bookstore.
- Title: Mr Mercedes
- Author: Stephen King
- Hardcover: 436 pages
- Publisher: Scribner (June 3, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1476754454
- URL: Amazon, Goodreads, Stephen King Website