Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Mr. Mercedes is the first of two novels by Stephen King being published this year—following suit from 2013 (Joyland in June, and Doctor Sleep in September). It immediately made bestseller lists, such as the New York Times and Globe and Mail. As a fan of Stephen King’s writing, I was excited to get my hands on Mr. Mercedes, King’s newest release.
The protective plastic cover crinkles on the copy of Mr. Mercedes I borrowed from the library. On the spine there is a sticker that reads “Horror,” like most of King’s other works. This, along with the creepy cover art, direct my expectations. I am promised mass murder, thrills, and chills. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Mercedes does not deliver. I realize now that this novel was meant to be King’s “first hard-boiled detective novel.” However, even still, it didn’t do it for me.
Mr. Mercedes is the story of a murderous psychopath and a retired detective. While Detective Bill Hodges is still on the job, the afore mentioned psychopath plows down an unsuspecting crowd of people waiting outside of a job fair. He does this in a stolen Mercedes Benz. This massacre goes unsolved, and Detective Hodges retires. In the fashion of most narcissistic psychopaths, the killer cannot let sleeping dogs lie. He got away, but he can’t resist wreaking further havoc. So he sends a letter to Retired Detective Hodges.
This letter leads Hodges on a quest to stop and apprehend Mr. Mercedes at all costs.
I understand why Hodges at first feels the need to keep the letter he receives from the police. It was a personal attack. He feels guilty. He feels like he might be able to gain more traction in his own investigation, unhindered by protocol and politics. Etc., etc.. However, as the story goes on and Hodges gets himself in deeper and deeper, his reasonings behind keeping the police out of it become increasingly murky.
At first out of necessity, he involves his teenage neighbour and his love interest. However, as it becomes more clear what Mr. Mercedes is capable of, it’s hard to believe that Hodges intentions and judgement remain sound when he continues to keep them involved and the police in the dark. He puts them and their family in increasing and unnecessary danger.
This might make for a good plot element if Hodges’ own interests clouded his judgement. But that is not how he is portrayed. He is meant to be the hero, and continues to be described in this light. This, unfortunately, leads to a strange contradiction that King does not account for.
Although the characters are (for the most part) well drawn and compelling, their involvement in the plot does not always sit right. This is true right up to the very end.
This book is filled with what you’d expect of your (slightly) above average crime/mystery/suspense novel. There was no horror, no thrills. There were a few chills, but they hardly stood up to King’s usual work. However, even the crime wasn’t of the grisly and gruesome variety. Honestly, the only reason I dubbed this book as anything above average is King’s writing. His style and ability were really the only things that kept me reading. I found the story itself was average at best.
If you like a mystery that’s more character driven than plot driven, you might like this one. However, be prepared to either mindlessly follow where King wants you to, or be left pondering plot holes and, at times, less than believable character motivation.
Hit or Miss?: Miss. This #1 New York Times Bestseller did not hold up to the hype. If Stephen King’s name wasn’t on the cover, I would never have found the plot compelling enough to even pick up.
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King