8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Strange book to review. Opening chapters are brilliant and it's here King does what he does best; creates horror out of normal situations. As that infernal Mercedes plunged into a crowd of innocents and carnage ensued I was totally hooked. What followed after was somewhat different.
I was probably a quarter of the way through the book when I was ready to put it away without finishing it. I didn't and read to the end. It's a clever novel this first 'non horror' detective fiction but it's so far from what I expected and it reads in a way that's almost comic book and ringing with cliche. It's almost a 'send up' of the real genre. The plot is spoon fed to the reader and it's just a matter of; there's the good guy and there's the bad guy - watch them as they chase one another. Who'll win?. It's almost impossible to take seriously. Retired, fat ex detective who failed to solve the original Mr. Mercedes murder does battle with an evil genius who is so completely over-the-top he'd be perfectly placed in a Batman movie.
There are glimpses of the real Stephen King from time to time. The odd few chapters when I dropped back into the plot but those moments were few and far between.
I'm leaving 4* simply because the opening chapters are pretty hard to beat. Even though Mr. Mercedes isn't supposed to be a 'horror' those chapters have some of the strongest horror elements I've read for a long time. Stephen King is an author I've read for over thirty years and he has enough of a hold over me I'll be in the queue for his next horror. Can't say the same for what I believe will be the next novel in this detective series.
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 19 August 2014
This is a real non stop, riveting read with plenty of suspense that we've come to expect from Stephen King. There's no hint of the supernatural or horror that often appears in his books, rather a straight out crime thriller. The reader is hooked from the first page, Stephen King certainly knows how to create a tense atmosphere, and also has such a good grasp on characterization. The character of ex detective Bill Hodges is well written and you feel yourself rooting for him throughout the book. Hodges is bored with his life so far since retiring, has become lazy and bordering suicidal, until he receives a letter out of the blue from somebody claiming to be the perpetrator of a crime involving the murder of 8 people who were lining up for a job fair, by driving his Mercedes into them at high speed then driving off. The crime was never solved, and this taunting letter gives Hodges a kick start into trying to solve the case, as he begins a cat and mouse style correspondence with the sender of the letter. We know from the beginning who the perpetrator is: Brady Hartsfield, a 28 year old man who lives with his alcoholic mother, who spends most of his time either at work or in his 'command centre' style basement, plotting new and manic ways of causing mass destruction.
As always in a good book, for every good protagonist there needs to be an even viler antagonist. This is definitely the case here! Brady is a misanthropic, psychotic young man, who gradually seems to get worse as the story goes on. King always has a knack at creating great villains, and Brady Hartsfield is one of them. After his initial mowing down of job seekers that begins the book, we follow his internal monologue as we are privy to his thoughts of new ways to cause mayhem, all the while engaging in back and forth correspondence with Hodges through an anonymous chat website.
The supporting characters are also well created. These include Jerome, a young black neighbor of Hodges who, like Brady, has skill with computers, who later assists Hodges. Also some tertiary characters who appear later on, such as the sister of the owner of the Mercedes used in the murder, and her cousin. The introducing of seemingly secondary characters through the main characters, and having them play a big role is a skill Stephen King has, and often uses in his novels.
I would recommend this book for any crime fans, but also for anyone who prefers King's less supernatural novels. I'm also pleased to hear this is to be the first in a trilogy featuring Hodges, so that's something to look forward to!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 6 September 2014
I find it irritating when Stephen King is typed as a straight up horror writer. Yes, while he is known, and rightly so, for some pretty amazing scary stories there is so much more variety in his work then he is given credit for. Take his recent novels 'Joyland' and '11.22.63,' both of which I found absolutely amazing. Mr Mercedes proves is another break from the general consensus.
I did enjoy this book and am looking forward to the next in the trilogy, but I did enjoy his other recent works more (those mentioned above, as well as Dr Sleep). I just felt that the characterisation and plot was lacking in places; Brady Hartsfield, the 'Mercedes Killer,' was clearly a smart guy. Yet I found him to be a bit of an inconsistent character, often fumbling his plans-yes, to the good luck of others but I don't read a book needing a happy ending-otherwise I wouldn't be such a fan of Stephen King's work! And Detective Bill Hodges also needed to live up a bit more to that savvy, decorated and commended cop reputation, by putting 2 and 2 together more.
Regardless of all that, and it's not intended as a negative, I did enjoy the book and wanted to see how it would end. I liked the contemporary feel of the novel regarding the recession and the crappy economy, which is something we can all relate to. All in all a very good book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
It's a foggy early morning and hordes of unemployed citizens have arrived early to await the opening of a job fair which promises legions of jobs. But before its doors can open, a stolen Mercedes SUV ploughs into the crowds of people, killing and injuring many. For years the identity of the killer remained unsolved, and the lead detective on the case, Bill Hodges, has retired to a life of daytime TV. But the detective's peaceful life is about to be disturbed with the arrival of a goading letter from the alleged driver of the Mercedes.
The identity of Mr Mercedes isn't a secret (his name is revealed on the back cover of the book) and this takes away part of the mystery of this crime novel. This is a departure of genre for King, but still a King book through and through. It's a Good vs. Evil plot, and it focusses on a small group of individuals banding together. King has a penchant for small town characterisation and this is evident here in Mr Mercedes. Unfortunately these techniques don't transfer smoothly over to this genre. The pace plods slightly, and although the story never becomes dull, it can in parts become a bit superfluous. That is to say that there is nothing new to be found here.
If you're a crime fan - there are better writers out there, offering up more entertaining yarns than this one. And if you're a long-term King fan - this isn't up to the standards of recent offerings 'Doctor Sleep', 'Joyland', or 'Under the Dome'. If you're finding yourself intrigued by King's Crime debut then give it a go but it's a mediocre sojourn for the king of horror.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2014
There was, for me, an awful lot wrong with this book. The characters don't entirely convince, and fall far short of King's best developed protagonists. The villain's plans and actions don't appear particularly credible (and neither does the fact that everybody falls for them, especially when it comes to the denouement). The climax is anti-climactic. As thrillers go, it's not very thrilling.
And yet... and yet... I'm increasingly convinced that Stephen King has actual magic powers. None of these problems stopped me from bouncing through the book and enjoying it a great deal. When King begins a story, he holds you to the end. While this story doesn't stand up well in the crime or thriller genre, and doesn't have the depth to extend much beyond its plot, it still thoroughly entertains. It's mediocre yet still, somehow, I liked it. Weird.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 14 October 2014
I'm not a fan of crime novels but I am a fan of Stephen King so I thought I'd try this.
The first third of the book was interesting and I liked the overall premise but the middle section of the book lagged very badly - there seemed to be page after page focusing on how people use/lose their car keys. The romance story was entertaining but seemed somewhat implausible.
In terms of characterisation, I thought Hodges and Brady were both interesting and enjoyed reading about Brady's past but the supporting cast such as Jerome and Holly were less impressive. Holly's transformation felt a little ridiculous and I cringed every time Jerome started the "Tyrone Feelgood" stuff.
The final section of the book, with Hodges teaming up to investigate matters with his kooky sidekicks, all felt a bit "Scooby Doo" to me.
Not one of Stephen King's best to say the least.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 October 2014
King's record writing non-horror or non-SF stories is mixed: Full Dark, No Stars is excellent; Blaze is okay but unmemorable; the least said about Gerald's Game, the better. So I approached this with some concern and sadly it's more Blaze than Full Dark, No Stars. Mr Mercedes is dull and plodding, and the characters are uninteresting. If a book has a thin plot, only a tight pace can save it, but this just drifts from one unmemorable scene to another. If a King book is good I usually finish it in a couple of days but I could only read short extracts of this before my attention started to drift, so it took weeks to read. If you're a fan you will likely buy everything King wriotes but if you're a new reader there are many better places to start than this one. Try instead The Stand, Salem's Lot, The Dark Half, It, Talisman or The Dead Zone.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 November 2014
Stephen King Returns in his non horror form , in a fresh direction with a detective style thriller . Mr Mercedes covers events of a retired cop whose joined by two of unusual associates to prevent a mass terrorist plot ! This contempory thriller covers the current information tech trend , and its effect on terrorismand , online chat sites , and is written in a style to me somewhat borrowed from the great American crime writer Lawrence Sanders . I found Mercedes a reasonable read as compared to other King's more recent novels, I also found this an extremely slow read only exploding and rising the gears at least seventy five per cent in to the book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 June 2015
For the first time in a long time I gave up and stopped reading it about 1/3 of the way through. While the concept was good I found that it went off in tangents all over the place consistently trying to be too clever for its own good.
on 27 August 2015
The last book that I read by Stephen King was '22-11-63', and that was the first of his books that I had read for more than twenty years. I had only been rather lukewarm about that one, and embarked upon this one with a certain trepidation.
Such concerns proved totally unfounded. This is a fine crime novel, with no hint of the supernatural. It does, however, feature King's trademark of immediately plausible characters, and his potent ear for realistic dialogue, and the plotting showed the tightness of the best of his earlier works.
Former detective Bill Hodges is a few months into his retirement, and is conscious that he is sinking into a state of torpor regulated by daytime television and junk food. Despite having enjoyed a largely successful career he still broods over a few of the cases that he was not able to resolve, and the perpetrators who escaped. Foremost among these is the 'Mercedes Killer' a maniac who had deliberately driven a stolen SL500 into a queue of people waiting to attend a job fair. Eight had been killed outright and many more had been injured.
However, Hodges is jolted out of his indolence when he receives a letter from someone claiming to have been the driver on that day, taunting the detective and seeming almost to cajole him into committing suicide. Hodges is spurred by this to start reconsidering the investigation into the calamity, and finds himself drawn into a challenging cat and mouse contest against the killer.
King maintains the tension superbly - that has, after all, been the characteristic of all his work, and his ability to persuade the reader to suspend disbelief is as powerful as ever. This was one of the most gripping books I have read this year.