I commented several times this year on how I thought Stephen King was the king of storytelling … and then I read Mr. Mercedes.
* CONTAINS SPOILERS
Detective Bill Hodges doesn’t want to admit he’s bored and finds life meaningless six months into retirement. He’s old, overweight, divorced and his only friend is the African-American teenager who cuts his lawn, Jerome Robinson. Little does Hodges realize that Brady Hartfield, the mastermind behind his greatest unsolved case is going to bring him abruptly out of retirement. After receiving a strange letter from Mr. Mercedes, Hodges secretly begins re-investigating the crime, seeing the case from a new perspective. Meanwhile, Brady Hartfield is hidden in the shadows watching him. Brady initially wanted to play around with Hodges, but when the Ret-Det keeps turning the tables on him, he grows angry and vengeful. He wants to make Hodges pay for mocking him and plans one last massacre so he can go out with a bang. With the help of Jerome, and the anxiety-ridden, Holly Gibney, Hodges pieces together Brady’s steps from the City Centre Massacre to his next act of terror. He knows the clock is ticking and Brady must be stopped before more innocent lives are destroyed.
Mr. Mercedes slowly builds into a riveting story that had me turning pages all the way to the exciting climax of the story. I wouldn’t consider this a hard-boiled detective novel as they are promoting it, but it’s certainly a good thriller.
I would have considered Mr. Mercedes a good book, but there were a few negatives that brought my opinion of the book down. For example, the fact that Hodges is white and Jerome is black seemed to come up in almost every scene they shared for two-thirds of the book. Jerome’s constant use of slave vernacular was painful and irritating.
Overall, the characters in Mr. Mercedes are not that interesting and don’t have any significant qualities. Hodges was a nice guy, a good cop and, therefore, pretty generic. Jerome was unbelievable as the Harvard-bound, handsome teenager who has nothing better to do than hang out with an old cop. Don’t get me started on Holly. I was shocked to discover she was even supposed to be an important character. As for our villain, Brady Hartfield; he does evil things in the story, but was more loathsome than scary. He’s got mother issues. He’s angry at the world, looking for attention and using technology as his weapon of choice. Been there, read that.
After reading some very good books lately, it was disappointing to discover how much this book was lacking. I’m surprised to hear that Mr. Mercedes is the first book in a trilogy because there’s not much here worth three books. I still think Stephen King is a masterful storyteller. But as much as I’m a fan, I highly doubt I will read the rest of this series. I think I’ll go back and read some of his older books instead.