A madman driving a Mercedes plows into a crowd of job seekers, killing eight and injuring many more. A year later, the retired detective formerly in charge of the case gets a letter from the killer, taunting him. Can retired Detective Hodges bring in the killer before he kills again?
Stephen King tries his hand at writing a straight up thriller in this outing. Was he good at it? Of course he was.
Mr. Mercedes is a page turner, a cat and mouse thriller pitting a retired detective against the one that got away. Since King is pretty good at ladling out the suspense, Mr. Mercedes is a stripped down version of the usual King song and dance, distilled down to its purest form.
As with a lot of King books, the characters go to hell and back over the course of the book. Hodges is an overweight former detective contemplating suicide when the book starts and soon returns to his detective roots. Brady Hartfield is a 30-ish guy who still lives at home with some serious mother issues when he targets Hodges. The supporting cast wasn't all that deep but Jerome and Holly really stepped up at the halfway mark.
Shifting viewpoints is never something I'm a tremendous fan of but King does it well here, as does his use of the present tense. Hartfield is an unsympathetic villain for the most part and I couldn't wait for him to get what was coming to him. That's what you get when you plot to poison someone's dog, asshole!
Extra bonus points for mentions of It, Christine, and Judas Coyne from Heart-Shaped Box. If It and Christine are movies, could Mr. Mercedes be set in the keystone world of the Dark Tower series? Something to ponder.
It wasn't all roses and revolvers, however. The hated thriller insta-love was in full effect. There were a couple logical leaps I didn't care for and Hartfield's final fate was a little bit of a letdown.
I found Mr. Mercedes to be more enjoyable than Doctor Sleep and Joyland but it was never a "drop everything and read" kind of book for me. 3.5 out of 5 stars.