11 of 11 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!
16 of 17 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.
2 of 2 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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 October 2015
I never read for Stephen King, but I know of his reputation in horror is unmatched, so when I saw this book I decided to give it a go. I was particularly guided by the raving reviews it boasts. The first few chapters are quite good, gripping, interesting, but then everything just falls to pieces.
My main problem with the story is that the characters are unbelievably clichéd, and for a detective novel, rather stupid. The plot is also incredibly predictable. The story was told in both Mr Mercedes and the retired detective's perspective, so near the end all the suspense was lost, because you knew what both of them were up to in parallel. Some of the "plot twists" or revelations are so obvious that you start to question the competence of the characters, and you start to wonder who the target audience of the book is. A lot of it mainly comes from their lack of knowledge about computers. I mean seriously? Who in this world wants to read about a woman who panics and cries to IT technicians, only to find out she accidentally knocked out the power plug? What young person in 2010 would boast about being able to access the control panel in a PC, and about checking emails?
I was very disappointed by the book; I decided to skim read to the end to find the rather boring, clichéd ending that I have seen 100 times in 80s and 90s films.
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.
on 4 September 2015
Mr Mercedes is King's venture into straight crime thrillers, the first of a trilogy. Fans of his horror and supernatural titles won't find their familiar fare here. No clowns, no haunted hotels, no Boo'ya Moon. Instead Mr Mercedes recounts the good versus evil battle of Bill Hodges, a retired police officer, and Brady Hartsfield, a computer genius with a bad Oedipal complex and an even worse loathing of humanity.
The book begins with a bang, recounting the senseless slaying of eight people by Brady Hartsfield, committed by ploughing a stolen Mercedes into a crowd. Years later, retired detective Bill Hodges's failure to capture the Mercedes Killer haunts him as he drifts through his days on a diet of junk food and daytime television. Then he receives a taunting letter from Mr Mercedes, an attempt to goad him into suicide. Instead, it induces the opposite effect, Hodges is spurred into action, committed to capturing the killer before he strikes again. Let the battle commence....
The novel has more twists and turns than a maze, never failing to thrill. Twice in the book (I'll not say more as I don't want to give plot spoilers) the events had me yelling, 'Oh my God!' at the pages. The way King enables Hartsfield to stalk Hodges without the latter realising is creepy beyond belief.
Novelists are often advised to torture their characters to excite readers. In Mr Mercedes, Stephen King doesn't hesitate to dispatch the modern day equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition to persecute his players. Speaking of whom, Mr Mercedes introduces a trio of characters that continue through the trilogy. First Bill Hodges, the man who rediscovers his zest for life through hunting Brady Hartsfield. Jerome Robinson, the computer-savvy student, a foil for Hodges's technical ineptitude. Finally, there's Holly Gibney, a seemingly minor character whose demons seem destined to hinder Hodges, not help him.
The lesser characters are equally compelling. Deborah Hartsfield, Brady's alcoholic mother, inspires empathy as we learn the reason for her drinking. At the same time, her unorthodox relationship with her disturbed son won't win her a 'Mother of the Year' award. Aunt Charlotte is a master study of a self-absorbed whiner engorged with entitlement issues. The only character I disliked (although she's one of the 'good guys') is Janelle Patterson. Her condescending attitude towards Hodges warrants a kick up the backside. She dispenses sexual favours his way as though rewarding a well-trained dog with a ham bone. Yuk.
Unlike many straight-up crime thrillers, the novel is laced with humour. Take our introduction to Bill Hodges. He's at a point in his life when blowing his brains out holds increasing appeal. We witness his ennui via the daytime television shows with which he self-medicates. King's descriptions of a trashy reality TV programme are hilarious, yet provide a not-so-subtle commentary on modern life.
His books have often been criticised for being long-winded. By comparison to some of his work (Under the Dome, The Stand, etc.), Mr Mercedes, at 405 pages, is a short read. Yet it still contains much that critics might say could be axed without interfering with the plot. Take the description of the reality TV show. The fighting between Knockout Bods One and Two and their shared lover doesn't add to the action, reveals nothing about the book's characters. Yet somehow it works. Those passages inject humour, a counterpoint to the awfulness of Hodges's life post-retirement. Yes, King is prone to lengthy prose, some of which doesn't add to his books. With a master wordsmith like him, though, it doesn't detract either. The man is probably capable of rewriting the phone book and making it thrilling. His wizardry with words ensures that, no matter what tangent he zooms off on, it'll be entertaining.
I devoured this book, loving the ride on which King takes the reader. The only part that didn't gel for me was the final scene, which I thought stretched credibility too far. On the other hand, in its own way it's oddly humorous. Given how I loved the rest of the book, it's a minor issue. And now, thanks to Messrs King and Mercedes, I know what a crush freak is. Believe me, if I could erase that particular piece of knowledge from my brain, I would!