Series: Bill Hodges Trilogy #1
Published by Scribner on June 3rd 2014
Genres: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
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.
Bill Hodges isn’t doing so well. He’s retired from the police force and has drifted into a monotonous routine of watching television while playing with his gun. Then the mad man, dubbed Mr. Mercedes, sends a letter inviting him into an investigation that involves deadly stakes. Will Hodges be able to stop Brady before he commits another mass murder, or will he be the next victim?
This is the first Stephen King book I have read and finished, and I have to say that I’m relatively impressed. Mr. Mercedes is a delightfully disturbing book that makes you want to both look away and turn the page at the same time. Before I delve into the particulars of this novel, I do want to warn any readers that this does involve some suicidal thoughts, incest, and otherwise disturbing ravings of a mad man. There were many times when I really couldn’t believe what King wrote, even though it was written with the idea of a mad man in mind.
There are two reasons that this book didn’t get 5 stars from me. First, there were several parts where I am convinced King exaggerated events simply to shock and disgust the reader. I know King has a name for the disturbing and shocking, but once you get to some of the lines it just seems like he was not so much reaching, as throwing the darts at a board of horrible things to say. It put me off in the beginning, because there wasn’t enough characterization to really give me background for this level of psychosis.
The second reason this didn’t get five stars was that the climax was too early in the book. In my mind, we knew what was going to happen halfway through the book, but instead of just letting us fast-forward to that point, there was an immense buildup to, well, nothing. I was pretty disappointed that there was no real ending for Brady, because of where King left him. I wished for some kind of finality, whether it be actually beating our protagonist or failing completely. Without giving anything away, it was just a big fizzle out in the end.
Brady, once he was evened out and a lot easier to read, was an enjoyable psychotic character. I loved when he communicated with Hodges in the online chat, and seeing the reactions on his end were enjoyable to the point of laughing at how offended he was. I think he would have simply talked a big talk and not done anything if Hodges never provoked him, but where would the fun be in that? King does a good job of trying to understand this type of narcissistic psychopath, and he doesn’t throw in too many stereotypes to put you out of place.
Unfortunately this doesn’t translate well to any of the side characters. They were all very flat and not enjoyable to read. Suffering from the sidekick syndrome, they served a purpose but ultimately did nothing for themselves. I wish they would have been a tad more developed, considering the roles some of them play and the amount of time that is spent on them.
I’m not sure that I would read the second book in this trilogy, because it doesn’t look like Brady will be making another appearance. This is unfortunate, because he was the main star in this book, at least in my mind. It seems the next will be focusing more on the detective. Either way, this is a book to make you question standing in long public lines.