“Mr. Mercedes” (Scribner), by Stephen King
“Mr. Mercedes” is classic Stephen King. Creepy, yet realistic characters that get under your skin and stay there, a compelling story that twists and turns at breakneck speed, and delightful prose that, once again, proves that one of America’s greatest natural storytellers is also one of its finest writers.
What’s billed as King’s first true detective novel captures the story of Mr. Mercedes, a killer so-named because he used a stolen car to plow through a group of hundreds standing in line before dawn to attend a job fair. While the city is never named, it sounds like a Midwestern working-class “anytown” that’s seen better days. The killer escapes and becomes the obsession of retired cop Bill Hodges.
Chasing down Mr. Mercedes literally breathes new life into Hodges who, until then, had spent months in his La-Z-Boy watching bad daytime TV and contemplating suicide. Feeling useful again, Hodges enlists the help of his only real friend, Jerome, the scary-smart, computer-savvy teenager who lives nearby and cuts Hodges’ grass. Their goal: to find Mr. Mercedes before he kills again – likely at a bigger, more crowded venue.
“Mr. Mercedes” rises above the standard detective-centric, hunt-down-the-killer crime novel because of its characters and its well-timed, unexpected tension.
Murderer Brady Hartsfield is a frightening, racist, sociopath who has an inappropriate relationship with his mother and drives an ice-cream truck part-time. Janey Patterson, the sister of the Mercedes’ owner who becomes Hodges’ girlfriend, is feisty, tough and modern. It’s like a good “Law and Order” episode where the supporting cast is as interesting and integral to the story as the main characters.