Mr. Mercedes: A Novel

Author’s Note: This review contains mild spoiler information.

‘MR. MERCEDES: A NOVEL’


JUMP TO SECTION:

OPENING LINE:

Mr. Mercedes should have just let sleeping detectives lie.


PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.
In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.
In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.
Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.
Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.
©2014 Stephen King (P)2014 Simon & Schuster


THE PLOT:

Bill Hodges is a recently retired detective. He’s divorced, alone, bored, depressed and has contemplated suicide. All of that changes when he gets a taunting letter from the killer in one of his last major and still unsolved crimes. This serves as the spark to get Hodges away from the television and back on the hunt for the Mercedes killer.
‘Mr. Mercedes’ is not a “whodunit” mystery. In fact, we know who done it pretty early and it is even revealed in the publisher’s summary on this very page. Brady Hartsfield is the Mercedes killer, the man who stole a Mercedes and ran down several people waiting in line at a job fair. Not content with that, Hartsfield even helped to engineer the suicide of the woman from whom he stole the car. Being unable to let it go even then, Hartsfield has decided to taunt the detective that had been working the case.
It is a classic cat and mouse story with Hodges chasing down Hartsfield and Hartsfield having his own plans to remove Hodges from the picture entirely. Things take a turn after Hartsfield blows up Hodges’ car, thinking the detective is inside when in reality it is the sister of Olivia Trelawney, the owner of the stolen Mercedes with whom Hodges has developed a romance.
Along the way, Hodges receives aid from a couple of unlikely allies – his 17-year-old neighbor Jerome Robinson, Olivia Trelawney’s cousin Holly Gibney, and Hodges’ lover Janey.
The story is complex with a lot of character development. In particular I found the transformation of Holly throughout the story to be one of the strong points. She has much in common with Brady Hartsfield in that they are both emotionally disturbed and both know their way around computers. But the difference is that Holly, as she helps track down the man that has killed her cousin, is able to rise above her anxieties, her difficulties and the way she is viewed by others. Hartsfield is a character who we are never able to stop disliking even as we find ways to pity him.
One surprising and very welcome choice that King makes is at the book’s climax. Things come to a head at a big concert in town where it is a race to stop Brady from committing one last grand act of terror. The interesting plot choice is who is and who is not involved in that final confrontation.
The book is not a straight series of action scenes from beginning to end. There are times when things settle down and it is in these times when the characters are fleshed out. It isn’t enough that Hodges was a good detective, but we are allowed to actually see him be one and not live off of reputation.
The book is the first part of a trilogy. Reading ‘Mr. Mercedes’ was enough to get me excited about the next two installments in the series. King has done a wonderful job of creating characters that you want to see succeed or get what is coming to them in the end.


THE AUTHOR:

Stephen King is the master of horror and suspense but had an idea to write a hard boiled detective story. King is very comfortable in this genre as well, and does a good job of mixing intense action with interesting characters and an intriguing chase. While ‘Mr. Mercedes’ is a cat and mouse chase story, King does a wonderful job at times making you wonder which character is the cat and which one the mouse.


THE NARRATION:

This was the first time I had heard Will Patton narrate a book. It didn’t take long for me to get used to the idea of the coach from ‘Remember the Titans’ reading an audiobook because his performance was that good. He was nominated for an Audie Award for this work and it is not hard to see why.
He manages to hit all of the right notes in his performance from the gruffness of Hodges to the downright creepiness of Brady’s mom. I particularly liked his reading of Holly and found it one of the more believable instances of a man performing a woman’s voice.


THE PRODUCTION:

The audio track is wonderful. There is a slow moving instrumental track used at the open and close of the book, but otherwise it is free of other music and sound effects. The chapter stops are where you would hope they would be, syncing up perfectly with the actual book chapters.
The reading comes through clear and crisp with no glitches or shifts in volume level.


CONCLUSION:

There’s a lot to like about ‘Mr. Mercedes’ with some interesting characters, a fun plot, some great action sequences, a touch of romance, and there’s even a little to creep the listener out if you’re into that kind of thing. ‘Mr. Mercedes’ might not be the type of Stephen King novel you are used to, but he shows his range as a storyteller and his ability to create and develop engaging characters.


QUICK FACTS:

Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
Mr. Mercedes: A Novel Stephen King Will Patton Simon and Schuster Audio Mystery and Thriller 06/03/2014 14 hours, 22 minutes 9/10

DISCLAIMER:

A copy of ‘MR. MERCEDES: A NOVEL’ was purchased from Audible for review.


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