Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Review: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Title: Mr. Mercedes
Author: Stephen King
Publication Date: 
Target Age Group: Adult
My Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

Book Jacket Blurb:

In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

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 Hartsfield 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.

My Review:

Although this book has many elements of a classic detective story, there is one main noticeable difference: you already know who the killer is at the beginning of the story. So why would you want to spend time reading this book?

First of all, this is the master, Stephen King, and he weaves a tale like no other. This book being no exception. He knows how to string us along, keep us entertained, keep on ratcheting up the suspense, and keep us guessing. And yes, there's plenty to guess about, even though the killer is known right up front.

Second, this is a THRILLER, as opposed to a MYSTERY, novel. And, as I've alluded to above, the thrills start from page one and don't let up until the VERY last page... and beyond. (I hear there will be two more books featuring Detective Hodges.) Watching this cat-and-mouse game between Detective Hodges and the killer as each tries to outwit, and psych out, the other is fascinating.

Third, the characters in the story, as in all of Stephen King's work, are very well developed. The heroes are your every day, average people, with their own flaws and idiosyncrasies, trying to stop a deranged killer from escalating the violence he already started right at the beginning of the book. Even the villain is well-developed. It's hard to feel sorry for someone so hell-bent on mass killing, and yet Stephen King allows the reader inside the killer's mind and life, and you almost feel sorry for him at certain points in the story. Almost.

Fourth, Stephen King takes the well-known tropes of the classic mystery story and turns them on their heads. Detective Hodges is your typical hard-boiled old-school detective, yet what makes the story really interesting are his side-kicks Jerome and Holly. Their methods are less formulaic, more chaotic, more modern. And the three of them together make an awesome team. My only beef I have is that I wish they played more of a role right up front, but I do like how Stephen King ushers them  to center stage in the story.  (I won't give away the point in the story where this happens, but you'll definitely know it when you see it. Keep an eye out for "the hat".)

I purposely didn't provide many details because I didn't want to spoil a thing. I wish I could go into more specifics to sell you on this book. Just take my word for it. It's one of Stephen King's better works, and it's a damn good thriller story in general. Go check it out!

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