Book – Mr. Mercedes
Author – Stephen King
Published – June 3, 2014
Pages (Hardcover) – 436
I should start by mentioning how much of a fanboy I am of Stephen King. I’m totally okay with using the word “fanboy” because I couldn’t care less what others might think! Admittedly, I haven’t read half of what King has written, but I fell in love after reading The Tommyknockers during my senior year in high school, and then fell madly in love after reading the Dark Tower novels *massive heart throb* King is the sort of fellow you read and think “Well got dang, that fella’s a real tootin’ sort of writer!”
He calls himself the Big Mac and fries of literature, but that doesn’t do him justice. Sure, I guess you can say he’s pulpy at times, but he’s still a fanfuckingtastic writer. Like… a really, really good writer. I don’t understand the critics. I think either 1) they want to compare him and his writing to people like, oh I dunno, literary giants like Dostoevsky or Edgar Allan Poe or Jane Austen – who would be like the filet mignons of literature, amirite? – or 2) they’re just straight up jealous. I am envious, but never jealous. I think jealous people are bitter people. So either way, the comparisons aren’t fair. Stephen King doesn’t write literary fiction and Stephen King can’t help it if you’re jealous of his skillz.
King is addicting. Try eating a single gummy worm and then stopping. Pretty difficult, right? You don’t want a single gummy worm. Who does that shit? You want TWO gummy worms, then THREE, then FOUR… You get the picture. Pick up a King book and, if it’s something you dig, you won’t want to put it down. Chances are, in fact, that you won’t. I know I never do.
*PHEW* Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…
Mr. Mercedes is the first in a trilogy of books (dubbed the Bill Hodges Trilogy), a detective/mystery novel set in modern day America. Bill Hodges is a recent retiree from the police force. His detective skills now laid to rest, he succumbs to the boredom and banality that retirement often grants. Hodges retired from the force with countless commendations and more respect than a man knows what to do with. However, it turns out that what Hodges doesn’t know what to do with is the retirement itself.
Nagging his brain, too, is a case that went unsolved. Success is fantastic but it’s often the failures we remember the most, especially when the uncaught criminal sends you a letter gloating and teasing about it.
Hodges receives a letter from a person who calls themselves Mr. Mercedes, claiming to be responsible for the mass killing via Mercedes Benz that killed 8 people and injured more. A crime that was never solved, the crime that was never solved.
After coming to the conclusion that this self-named Mr. Mercedes is the real killer, a retired detective dons his skills once more to stop the man from killing anyone else. It just so happens that a high school senior and a mentally unstable middle-aged woman get wrapped up in it all – directly and indirectly in their own ways – and become his quasi partners-in-crime. All the while, Hodges must keep his personal vendetta a secret from the police, including his ex-partner Pete Huntley and his new partner in the process.
Review (With Possible Minor Spoilers?)
King, as always, dazzles with his writing. Also as always, his characters shine over plot. I became a fantasy writer because of Steven Erikson and playing The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, but I became a writer to begin with because of Stephen King. His focus on believable characters and superb dialogue is exactly what I feel is most important in writing and movies and really any media (my humble opinion, of course; if you prefer plot over character/dialogue, that’s cool too!). He doesn’t fail with Mr. Mercedes.
The plot itself is fine, although there are some things I had to just ignore and stop fussing about. For example, I understand the personal vendetta – and I understand it even more as the story progress and certain horrible things take place – but if this were a real-life scenario Bill Hodges would have been thrown in jail despite getting the bad guy in the end. He enlisted the help of a high school senior (Jerome) and a mentally unstable woman (Holly); let’s get that out there in the open. He risked both of their lives, especially the boy, on multiple occasions. He even GIVES THE BOY A GUN, AND I WON’T EVEN MENTION THAT THE BOY DOESN’T HAVE ANY GUN TRAINING, NOR WILL I MENTION THAT WHY WOULD YOU GIVE A BOY A GUN TO BEGIN WITH. Hodges often thinks to himself “I really shouldn’t be involving these two,” but does he keep doing it anyway? Of course! Not only that, but he also withholds numerous pieces of evidence from the police department. And not only that, but he also uses his badge to gain information despite already being retired (in case you didn’t know, that is a big no-no). So… yeah… really, Hodges would be in jail right now.
But this isn’t real life, so whatever.
You ignore these nagging details because they aren’t overly important. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t get them out of my head – a lot of “OH MY GOD WHY ARE YOU STILL DOING THIS” but oh well. I read King because his characterization is top-notch and, most importantly, he is by far the best damn storyteller I’ve ever read. There’s a lot to be said about someone who is just really, really good at telling a story. This is where King excels in all of his novels. Even the ones that make little to no sense, you don’t give a damn because he’s that great of a storyteller.
What I give King two thumbs up toward the most is the antagonist. Brady Hartfield is the most sadistic, revolting, vile Bad Guy I’ve ever read in a King novel, and mind you I’ve read the Dark Tower books. Speaking of The Dark Tower, doesn’t Brady remind you of one Randall Flagg? Yeah, he does, doesn’t he? He totes does. As much as you hate Brady, you love reading his parts in the novel. Especially that opening letter to Hodges. MAN what a scene! What a psychotic son of a bitch.
I’m going to stop now because really I could gush about King until I take my final breath. So what I’ll say is read this story and have as much fun with it as I did. Don’t take the detective aspect of it too seriously because that’s missing the point. The detective part of it is the setup – the background, if you will – but the book is just phenomenal storytelling all around.
Score: Highly Recommended!