I wasn’t planning on reading Mr. Mercedes this year. It just sort of happened. And by “it just sort of happened,” I mean that I was looking for audiobooks to feed my audiobook addiction, and saw this was available and then clicked “download,” even though I knew it wasn’t on my list and I would be using it as one of my twenty-five freebies, because I just can’t resist free candy, dammit. I can’t really say I regretted it, though. The universe seems to have rewarded my bad behavior with an enjoyable story. This kind of thing always happens to me. It’s why I never learn my lesson.
I will admit up front that I haven’t read as many Stephen King books as I would like, but I have read a lot of thrillers and detective stories and crime books and junk like that, and if Stephen King wants to jump into that genre and swim around for awhile and books like this are what happens, then who am I to complain. Nothing about Mr. Mercedes is revolutionary or even all that surprising, but what is there is competent in the best way possible. I feel like competent is an underhanded compliment, but I mean it genuinely. Sometimes you just want something simple and expected.
The book opens with an unknown assailant driving a stolen Mercedes-Benz into a crowd of people waiting for a job fair. This is 2009, right after the recession, so there’s a lot of people there to target. Among the dead is a woman and her baby, who had been huddled in the cold in a sleeping bag. The killer is never caught. Fast forward six months to a year. The lead cop on the case is now retired and not handling it well. He’s even thinking of committing suicide because he’s feeling so useless and depressed. And then he gets a letter–and actual print letter–from Mr. Mercedes himself, and things heat up from there. This is not a mystery book, though. Immediately after we meet Ret. Det. Kermit “Bill” Hodges, we also meet Brady Hartsfield, Mr. Mercedes himself. He has reached out to Hodges because he’s bored and he hopes he can get the “fat ex-cop” to kill himself, just like he got the woman who owned the stolen Mercedes to kill herself. From there, the book speeds forward on parallel tracks. We watch as the two men circle around each other, and ultimately head towards a violent ending, for multiple parties.
I’ve read a lot of reviews of this who say there are a lot of plot holes, or who think Hodges relationships with some of the secondary characters were unbelievable, but none of that bothered me. I liked Hodges. I liked that he was a lonely old man who’d lost his purpose in life and was finding it again in work and in relationships with new people. I liked the people he met, and I don’t think any of those relationships were unbelievable, or that Hodges attaches too much important to them. Seeing into Brady’s mind was fascinating, especially watching as he reacted like the mouse to Hodges’ cat, and seeing how he got to be the way he is. I also didn’t see any plot holes, although I guess I’m historically bad at noticing those anyway. I’m good at suspending disbelief. The only thing that did niggle me a little bit was that Hodges didn’t acknowledge enough for my liking that his keeping the case and information away from the cops was ultimately more destructive than it was helpful.
All in all, very entertaining, and the audiobook was good as well. Will definitely be reading #2 when it comes out later this year.