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!
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.
on 18 December 2015
I have heard so much about this book that when I saw it in my library I knew I had to check it out. It has been a few years since I last read a book from Stephen King. It took me a while to get into this book and I am not quite sure why. I love this authors writing and his ability to bring you story like no other but it took me until about 200 pages into the book before it started to turn good for.
This story starts off where a crowd of people get ran over by a Mercedes this killer was never caught. One of the officers whose case it was has retired and still thinks about the crime from time to time. All that changes when Bill receives a letter from the suppose killer, the investigating itch is back for Bill and he is now more than ever determined to catch this killer.
It seems there is a lot of cat and mousing going on within this story between the killer and Bill and when you find out who the killer is, it makes you really think that some killers are just killers in plain sight. Which is kind of scary.
Will Bill be able to close the case? Who all will be affected by the actions of Bill when he takes this mission to capture the killer without the help of law enforcement?
We actually get into the mind of the killer and I liked to see how he worked and where he was going with things. I think the author did a great job with the "bad" guy and how he was portrayed.
There is a pretty cool scene that deals with hamburger meat I am just going to leave that there as I was just like OMG OMG WHAT!!!
Now the way this story ended has me wondering if these characters will be in the next story or do we get a new case? I guess I shall pick up book two and find out. I just hope that I get more into the story quicker with book two than I did with this one.
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.
The novel starts when a retired detective receives a taunting letter from the ‘Mercedes Killer’, a man who killed a number of people by driving into a queue outside a job fair, and who Hodges was never able to bring to justice. Since retirement, Hodges has lost direction and purpose, something he finds again when he receives the letter and he begins his own investigations.
The novel then switches focus and we are allowed into the dark world of Brady Hartsfield, the killer, and his plans.
I was utterly gripped by this novel. Ok, it was implausible and unpleasant in places, but it is a Stephen King novel after all! I cared about the characters and there were a few moments when I was genuinely surprised. I won’t give anything away but I will always love that King champions underdogs. The quality of his writing also seems to be improving with every book and I’m really happy that he’s continually trying new things. Great.
on 26 February 2016
A lot of late career King seems to have divided opinion somewhat. 11/22/63 seems to have received damn near universal acclaim, but Dr. Sleep, Under The Dome, and Revival have all attracted significant criticisms from some quarters, as well as some staunch fans. From what I can gather, Mr. Mercedes seems to fit into that ‘marmite’ pattern somewhat.
In some ways, I can see why. For starters, it’s entirely non-supernatural - I guess by strict genre definitions a crime thriller - though, I mean, so is Misery, if you think about it, so I’m not sure the label is all that helpful. And, you know, it’s King, so crime thriller it may be, but it goes pretty dark in places.
Take for example, the opening. I confess to not having read every King novel and story, but I have read the majority, and I’m not sure that he’s written an opening this powerful and gripping since IT - and candidly, depending on your taste, it may even be better than that. The standard King playbook is in effect, with a ticking clock to an uncertain doom. It’s exactly the kind of trick that he makes seem so effortless, and yet is almost impossible for a lesser writer to pull off without seeming awful. Here’s it is not awful. It is magnificent. I spent the entire opening few pages with my heart in my mouth and a sinking feeling in my stomach, and when I got to the end, I remember thinking ‘Bloody hell, how’s he going to keep that up?’
Well, for my money, he didn’t, quite. That said,I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Mr Mercedes, and there’s a lot to recommend it. I personally love King in non-supernatural mode, so this is a relatively rare treat for me, and his character work is as strong as ever, especially the retired cop protagonist and the villain.
Ah, the villain. For large sections of the running time, the book runs on the classic crime thriller parallel track - once chapter with the hero, one with the villain. It’s a classic approach for a reason, and King offers a casual masterclass in why, with the way the villain chapters give us insight not available to the hero leaving us in a constant state of tenderhooks, with occasional bursts of sheer panic as matters escalate.
The plot twists and turns neatly, and the 400 page running time, while not short by genre standards, nevertheless feels lean compared to King’s other more recent efforts, which for me paid dividends in terms of pacing.
It’s not perfect. It’s clear the villain understands technology rather better than the author at times, and while I really respect King’s efforts to come to grips with these necessary elements of a modern setting, there was the odd moment that felt a little awkward, if not cringe worthy. Additionally, whilst I enjoyed the individuals that end up forming a team with the hero, some of the elements of how they came together felt just a little forced, to me, somehow.
That said, I found reading this book to be a real joy overall, and while I don’t think it’ll go down as one of his classic works, it’s still a very exciting book from a novelist of incredible talent. I also cannot help but applaud a writer who, in his fifth decade of professional writing, is still pushing himself to try something new. We should all be so driven.
And seriously, read that opener. It’s a doozie.
on 22 March 2016
I really enjoyed the characters in this novel. Stephen King appears to have moved from horror into thriller and crime. The lead offender in this story is naturally disturbing and could easily be someone living in an area near you. Whilst I enjoyed Cell better this is still riveting stuff and deserves a read.
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!
on 14 August 2015
This is the first Stephen King novel I have read and I loved it! I know that Mr Mercedes is not like his other books; it is more of a thriller than a horror but I thought it was fantastic. I can see why Stephen King is so well respected, reading this was like being given a master-class in story-telling.
Bill Hodges is retired and bored. He is thinking back over old cases he had to leave unsolved; the most important being 'the Mercedes Massacre'. Someone drove a Mercedes into a big group of people in the early hours of the morning. These were desperate people, queuing in the early hours to attend a jobs fair; the driver killed eight and seriously maimed many more. The fact that the killer was simply able to drive off into the fog has frustrated Hodges as he feels he has failed to get justice for the victims.
Brady Hartsfield was the Mercedes Killer; he still can't quite believe that he got away with it. He is ready to kill again and he wants Bill Hodges to know about it. Here begins a game of cat and mouse, will Hodges be able to identify Brady before he strikes again?
Mr Mercedes is beautifully written and expertly plotted. Brady Hartsfield is a vile creation and truly believable, he's terrifying. There is a follow up to this book which I will definitely be reading but it has also made me want to try some of King's horror novels so let me know if you have any favourites or suggestions of what I should begin with?
on 19 May 2016
This was one of the better Stephen King reads I've discovered in the last few year. It sees a retired detective (Bill Hodges) focus on an old case that's been bugging him since he left the force. He was a very good investigator, but his last big case (where a driver intentionally drove at a crowd of job seekers) was one that got away.
He was kickstarted into taking the case more seriously after he received a letter from the alleged perpetrator, threatening to do the same again. It then becomes a race against time as he reexamines every aspect of the case to prevent a reoccurrence of the original incident.
It's a good read. It rattles along at a good rate, and delivers a pleasing finale. It won't ever win a Nobel Prize for Literature, but I don't think King was expecting it to anyway.