Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Written by: Stephen King
Published by: Scribner
by Stephen King
Retirement is going to kill us all. Or at least there seems to be a strong correlation between retiring and then dying at some point afterward. For some, retirement means taking away the purpose and reason of their life. Once that’s gone they start looking for a reason to die. But there are still things out there lingering in pre-retirement lives. Things that can cause one to come out of retirement, give a new reason for living, or begin killing again.
On a foggy morning hundreds of people stood in line outside of a jobs fair. Times were hard for this town and these people needed whatever they could get. As they pressed in close to fight off the elements, a large Mercedes came barreling through the middle of them, killing some and crippling others. The driver was never found. Months later, one of the best detectives the city had, Bill Hodges, is sitting in his living room trying to enjoy his retirement. His father’s gun keeps calling out to him but before he can answer, a letter from the Mercedes killer falls through the mail slot. The Mercedes Killer was one of the few cases Hodges couldn’t close before leaving the force. Hodges all of a sudden found a reason to go on. And the killer has found new reasons to kill.
I think King is trying to step out of his comfort zone as he steps farther away from retirement. This is his third mystery or thriller that lacks supernatural elements depending on your interpretation. And though it has all the elements of a Stephen King book: rich characterization, tremendous writing, and at times a bit of over description, it felt like one of his weaker efforts.
Aside from the whole thing feeling very much like a worn out clich? the characters were predictable and boring. We have the older cop who doesn’t understand technology (something I’m beginning to see that King doesn’t understand). He enlists the help of a super talented minority, which is the opposite of what the reader would expect, assuming the reader was frozen the 1950’s. And together they get together with a disturbed, yet super bright woman to do hacker type things that happened in movies before everyone had a computer. And our bad guy is villainous to cartoonish proportions. Not only does he like to hurt people because he’s evil, he is a racist, homophobic, misogynist, super genius, loner.
The climax was anticlimactic to say the least. The bad taste the ending left in fans’ mouths may have more to do with expectations than the ending being all that bad. Still, King has made quite the reputation of telling elaborate and interesting stories that are well thought out with a realistic and satisfying ending. With Mr. Mercedes we don’t get those things. Instead we get some sort of Andrew Klavan/Dean Koontz hybrid where King went through and picked out the bad parts of their novels and used it as the base for his own.
Mr. Mercedes isn’t a bad book but falls around the level of Rose Madder as far as Stephen King quality goes. Fans will still read it and if they don’t like it they will probably rabidly defend it. If you’re looking for a good horror story keep looking. If you are looking for a good mystery there are still plenty of Elmore Leonard and John D. MacDonald books out there. If you are look for a well written albeit mediocre mystery you’ll find it here.
Reviewed by Adam Armstrong
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