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4.4 out of 5 stars
Mr Mercedes (Unabridged)
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39 of 41 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!
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4 of 4 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.
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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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2014
I won't waste too much time expounding on the obvious; others have stated it far more succinctly than I will ever be able to. This isn't a Stephen King horror story, per se. Oh, no doubt, there IS horror. Buckets of it, in fact. Only this time King turns his hand to the possibly more frightening realm of everyday human horror, and with chilling poignancy.
The villain of the piece is every bit as frightening as any of Mr King's more supernatural Big Bads. I was reading this, and kept hearing the ice cream van making the tour of the streets where I live. Freaked me out a little. Because the point is so beautifully made. It could be anybody. Nobody really can tell under the surface.
Constant Readers will find one or two Easter Eggs to King's earlier work, this feature becoming more prominent in his writing since he used the device as a plot staple in his Dark Tower books. They're enjoyable nods, self indulgent, and yet they made me smile. As they no doubt did with my fellow CR's.
I shan't give too much plot away, only to say that while there are no bumps in the night to be found here, Stephen King is still one of the very best character writers that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I was fully invested in every single one of the characters in this book. Even without the horror. Maybe King's secret has been that the horror is only felt, because his character work is so good.
This is a sublime work of fiction, and I devoured it in an evening/following morning session. Utterly recommended to fans of King, and a very good place to start for the King-curious, without getting bogged down in the minutiae of his Dark Tower-centric earlier works.
Absolutely essential.
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12 of 13 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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 22 June 2014
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2015
Firstly, let me just say that I am a huge admirer of King's work. I count some of earliest works as the finest fiction I've ever read. But I just did not like this book.

King describes it as a hard boiled crime novel, but for me it just does not have the grit or the depth to be classed as such.

The characters are not really believable. They lack cutting edge, realism and depth. The main two, Hodges and Brody are just not well rounded enough for me to really be "in" the story. I do not get them. Characters like Janey Patterson and Jerome are really badly defined too. Some of the dialogue attributed to them is laughable and a bit cringeworthy. When Jerome "turns into" Tyrone for example, it's just awful, awful , awful.

I actually really dislike the book, though I do love King and will continue to be an advocate of his work. This story, with its weak characters and narrative strung together with cliches and innuendos, will not live long in the memory though.

Predictable and poor. Nearly didn't bother finishing it. Sorry.

Each to his own of course!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 16 June 2015
Having recently read a couple of "literary" novels I was in the mood for something lighter and although I haven't read a Stephen King book for over 30 years,I remembered enjoying novels like Salem's Lot and The Shining so I thought I'd give this a go. As you might expect it's written in King's very easy to read style, but despite its readability I'm afraid I found it all a bit dull and predictable with, for me, some serious flaws. Primarily,the main character, Bill Hodges' romance with a younger wealthy heiress struck me as both unnecessary and unbelievable. Also the character of Jerome just seemed horribly dated and unrealistic, I mean do African Americans really speak like that in the 21st century? Finally, the introduction of the woman with psychological problems who happens to be a computer whizz really, really doesn't ring true. It's a very easy read, but I didn't feel that any of the characters could exist outside of a book. One for true fans or for anyone who just wants a throwaway beach read. I shan't be reading the rest of the trilogy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 October 2014
I've read the reviews, good and bad, on this one (Stephen King fans have particularly strong views) but they haven't changed my opinion that, for me, this book was a 5 star read.
Bill Hodges, retired, living alone, his life reduced to afternoon TV shows and occasional thoughts of ending the boredom and his life is the typical 'washed up' cop of fiction.
Brady Hartsfield (love the name) is a crazy killer with a warped logic and a fitting family history.
Brady taunts Bill back from retirement and the dual begins.
There are faults, mostly in Bill's refusal to inform the proper' authorities as he goes it alone to bring in Brady.
However, for me, the compensation was the interesting cast of quirky, peripheral characters (including the dog!) and the breathtaking speed as the chapters switch between Bill and Brady.
Mr Mercedes was a 5 star read for me because I enjoyed it and, though this is not a horror novel, Brady Hartsfield is a true monster.
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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.
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