I had heard mixed reviews about Stephen King’s latest novel, Mr. Mercedes. I bought it. Read it. And before I sat to write the review, I needed to forget that it was written by Stephen King. I have read many non-horror novels by the master, and loved them all. Mr. Mercedes is no different. It is not a horror novel. There is nothing supernatural about it. It is a straight police procedural. A whodunit, for the most part.
Recently retired Bill Hodges struggles with boredom. His days have quickly become routine. Eating too much, drinking too much, and watching far too much television. His mind focuses on bigger cases that went unsolved at the time he left the department. A major case, one that troubled him, involved a stolen Mercedes used in a massacre. People were lined up at a job fair. Early in the morning a Mercedes ran into the crowd. Several people were killed. More injured. The manic was never caught.
It isn’t long before Mr. Mercedes contacts Bill, taunts him. The letter suggests that Bill would be better off swallowing a bullet. Putting an end to his pathetic life. With limited resources, Bill contacts his old partner. He runs some what-ifs by the detective. He does not share the new information he’s been presented. Instead, Bill plans to research the lead on his own.
On his own isn’t exactly accurate. Jerome is a teen neighbor. He’s good with computers. Little by little, Bill sucks Jerome into the investigation, relying more and more on the young man’s skills. While re-looking at the case facts, it becomes apparent that Bill and his old partner may have been quick to draw conclusions, and by doing so missed clues that were left around the “scene of the crime.” Hired by the sister of the woman who owned the stolen Mercedes, Bill’s search for answers becomes an obsession. Mr. Mercedes also is obsessed, with wrecking Bill’s life. The game between the two of them intensifies. Unforeseen events nearly destroy Bill. Relying on Jerome and a mildly mentally handicapped woman named Holly, the net shrinks and as they get closer to catching Mr. Mercedes . . . Mr. Mercedes disappears.
The killer’s plan to outdo the Job Fair massacre is explosive. But will Bill and his hodge-podge investigative team be smart enough, and quick enough to stop the lunatic before it is too late! Stephen King, a legend, tells an amazing story. Perhaps more literary than gritty noir, Mr. Mercedes is a top-notch crime novel. A gumshoe style tale that is about knocking on doors, and burning up shoe leather. It reminds me of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series. And if you have never read an Ed McBain book, you don’t know what you are missing. But I digress.
From the opening scene at the job fair, until the final words in the last chapter, Mr. Mercedes kept me turning pages anxious to see how Bill was going to foil the devious plans of a crazy serial killer. I give Mr. Mercedes 4 out of 5 Stars!
Author of Blood River and The Vaccination Trilogy