I’ve been a Stephen King girl ever since summer camp in Jr. High, when someone handed me their copy of The Shining. Later that summer I read The Stand and ‘Salems Lot and every other worn paperback I could get my hands on before camp was over. I was hooked.
I’ve read pretty much everything the man has written over the years (not every non-fiction piece, and a few short stories printed in obscure journals have eluded me). Some of his books are among my all-time favorites: The Stand, The Dark Tower series, The Eyes of the Dragon, Night Shift, and ‘Salem’s Lot, to name a few. Yes, most of those were written decades ago. It’s true that some of his newer books don’t pack the punch of his older works, and that his endings haven’t quite worked, but there’s still some good writing to be found in there if you look hard enough. But something switched for me around the time of 11/22/63 — I felt like we were getting more of the old “Uncle Stevie” again. Look at parts of hi bibliography for the last few years (since Under the Dome, which is best left alone): Mile 81, 11/22/63, The Wind Through the Keyhole, In the Tall Grass (folks, that one was so freaky, I couldn’t even review it. OLD SCHOOL KING), Joyland, and Doctor Sleep. All are really quite good.
Which brings us to Mr. Mercedes.
Folks, this is the first King book that I’ve actually stayed up into the wee hours to finish in years. Whenever I tried to put it aside, I kept saying to myself, HEY, I REALLY NEED TO KNOW WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN. PICK THAT BOOK UP AGAIN. And today I’m paying the price for it, but I’m not sorry that I did it.
Mr. Mercedes is about a retired detective in a dying mid-west city. Bill Hodges’ entire life was being a detective, and now that he isn’t anymore, he’s simply waiting to die. He flirts with the idea of suicide and he treats his body like a garbage disposal. His marriage is over, his friends are all still active police, and all he has is daytime television.
Until one day, he gets a letter from the one criminal he wished he had caught, Mr. Mercedes. A few years prior, someone drove a big Mercedes into a crowd of people waiting in line for a job fair. The car killed 8 people, including an infant, and seriously injured many more. The case the failure to solve it has haunted Hodges, and hearing from Mr. Mercedes snaps Bill out of his depression and brings him back to life.
In alternate chapters, we hear from Mr. Mercedes himself, young Brady Hartsfield. And Brady’s goal is to convince Hodges to kill himself. And then, maybe he’ll blow up a huge crowd of people with all of the plastic explosive that he has sitting in his mother’s basement.
Bill Hodges, knowing that his attempt to investigate without the knowledge of the police department would be highly illegal, decides to do just that. With his rag-tag team of assistants, Bill is in a race against the clock. They know Mr. Mercedes is going to strike again, and soon. But they don’t know much else, and it’s up to them to solve this mystery in time. As Bill and his team get one step closer to figuring out who Mr. Mercedes is, Brady takes one step back, his sanity and patience slowly unraveling.
This was a taut and exciting thriller from King. While he’s still best known for stories about monsters and other things that go bump in the night, I find that his scariest stuff is usually about things that could potentially happen and the darkness that lives inside some people. Those are the monsters that scare me.
I’ve heard this is the first book in a planned trilogy. While I can’t possibly imagine what the next two books could be about, I look forward to them anyway. It’s not like I’m suddenly going to stop reading Stephen King.