Litore's elegant prose seeps into the soul, stoking our fears of dark labyrinths and the loss of self, of having our direst warnings passed off as mad...moreLitore's elegant prose seeps into the soul, stoking our fears of dark labyrinths and the loss of self, of having our direst warnings passed off as madness in a cruel and ignorant world. A chilling and masterful tale.(less)
After the raging disappointment of Doctor Sleep, I was really hoping King would be able to come back swinging with something that reminded me what a g...moreAfter the raging disappointment of Doctor Sleep, I was really hoping King would be able to come back swinging with something that reminded me what a good storyteller he is. And for the most part, he did. Mr. Mercedes, which is apparently the first book in an intended series, is a slight departure for King. It's a straight up crime thriller, but he does it with his own creepy panache, particularly with the villain, which I'll get to in a sec.
The story begins with the horrific crime that sets the main story in motion. A couple of lonely and desperate souls meet in a long line in the wee hours of the morning outside a city center building (the city is obviously Chicago, though King deftly avoids naming the actual city), where a job fair is expected to open in a few hours. It's the height of the recession, and people are desperate enough for work to bring their crying babies and sleeping bags to camp out. But what should appear than the namesake himself, wielding a tank of a Mercedes S-Class. He mows down he crowd with apparent glee, killing at least 8 people and injuring more.
Jump ahead a couple years, and we meet the Bill Hodges, lead detective on the unsolved Mr Mercedes case, now retired. And suicidal. It's tough giving up the life of a cop, especially when you've clearly alienated everyone close to you who wasn't part of that life. The wife is an ex, and the daughter is more or less estranged. But then he gets a letter in the mail from the Mercedes killer himself. The lunatic is bored, see. He likes taunting the folks who survived his massacre, and that chillingly gleeful letter forces Hodges back into a life he hadn't been willing to admit he missed.
We meet a great cast of characters in this book, which shifts perspectives mainly between Hodges and the killer, Brady Hartsfield, whose life is about as bizarre as you might expect from the guy who brought you Big Jim and his crazy necrophiliac son of UNDER THE DOME. Brady is a bit of a Millennial Norman Bates type, where instead of taxidermy, he's a tech wizard. And he's a bit of a Mamma's Boy. King weaves the tale of Hodges and Hartsfield into a highly entertaining cat and mouse game, as the two communicate back and forth, taunting one another, while Hodges digs deeper and deeper into a case that has turned more and more personal for him. He also has the help of several friends, my favorite being his teenager neighbor friend, Jerome, and a neurotic middle-aged woman, Holly. Even as we get glimpses of Brady's next plan--a bigger, bloodier, and more extravagant affair--the suspense is pretty thick. Enough to keep the pages turning. Hell, there's even a little bit of romance and heartbreak.
This book is a new venture for King, all in all. He swung and struck out with his previous crime story, The Colorado Kid, but this book is a vast improvement. However, there were aspects of the book that felt a wee bit forced in terms of mechanics. I don't think King is so used to being a slave to plot and all the meticulous details a crime story like this requires in order to present a puzzle for the reader, but I have no doubt that the more he does it, the better he will get. I have also criticized King's recent writing for pulling punches when it comes to delivering real blows to the reader's gut. However, I think he operated in fine enough form here. I have to ask myself if I would have made the same plot choices he did or if I would have pushed the envelope further. But you know what? I think he did just fine. There were a number of gut punches in this book, speckled with moments of relief when he didn't make certain choices I thought he might. They were choices he very well would have made as a younger man, far crueler ones. Sometimes you just don't need to go there in order to make the audience feel things. Was it as harrowing as it could have been? No. But it was harrowing enough.
Since this is a planned series, I look forward to joining back up with Det-Ret Hodges again. Mr. Mercedes was the perfect summer read, and I recommend it to all fans of the genre.(less)