437 of 493 people found the following review helpful
I love this new and improved Stephen King 2.0. I am not going to rehash the publisher's summary or go too deep into the plot as some consider writing about ANY plot points as spoilers. There are no spoilers here, just my opinion of the type of readers that would enjoy Mr. Mercedes as much as I did.
In my opinion, there are three major buckets of Stephen King fans,
A) Readers that love his earlier works that featured densely written supernatural stories that kindled the type of mental terrorism that innovated the genre. Novels that are deep in character and plot line development to the point they easily reach the level of an 800+ page epic. (See: The Stand)
B) Readers that love his lighter works that loan themselves to the psychological thrillers of the physical and mortal world that are so terrorizing, they wish it was due to a supernatural entity. Novels that don't have as much depth (relatively speaking) or number of characters, but still great reads. (See: Misery)
C) Readers who just enjoy to be entertained and terrorized by the master of horror, regardless of the believability of the plot's premise or source of the fear.
For the hardcore fans that reside in segment A, I think they will feel Mr. Mercedes is a well written novel, but a rare miss by the author they have grown to love. That would be an unfortunate mis-characterization if readers think Mr. Mercedes is a miss due to the lack of page turning details developing voluminous characters and minuscule details of their surroundings. The development of the main characters in Mr. Mercedes was more that enough to keep us engaged and on our toes with a truly unpredictable plot.
Protagonist Bill Hodges is definitely not a sympathetic character nor a character that can be simply introduced to the reader. We are taken through his very tough existence to see him as a loathing underdog and the city's only hope to stop the sadistic plans of the antagonist, Brady Hartsfield. Also, King does a great job still making use and giving depth to the small supporting cast which includes Hodges sidekick, Jermome, Brady's mother Deborah, and Jannelle Patterson - the sister of the woman whose Mercedes was used by Brady in the attack that starts it all.
Fans in segments B and C will definitely feel the same heart-racing thrill that they have come to know from Stephen King. Mr. Mercedes is totally unpredictable, fast starting, and interlaced with many newer 21st century references that many will find refreshing. Mr. Mercedes lends more to a thriller where a lot of the plot plays out through the web - a new twist that makes me love Stephen King 2.0 even more.
This was a great novel that is much easier to read than many of Stephen King's earlier works. It will definitely not be a disappointment for fans who are open to Kin's expanding range of finding new, and more 21st century ways to keep us horrified, entertained, and guessing. I definitely recommend this to all King fans and those who may be new to his books.
This review was of an advanced reading copy.
304 of 342 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2014
If you want aliens,cats that come back or creepy clowns,this is not the book for you. If you love well written King storys, it is. If you enjoyed Shawshank and Stand by Me ect., this book will make you happy. 11/22/63 was good, but still used the supernatural to move the story,here it's just people. I think King is at his best when he uses the characters that always feel real.
Enjoy a good story? Tired of the usual crap? Read this.
54 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2014
King negates a heavy hand for an authentic, subtly crafted story. Mr. Mercedes offers dual perspective, enabling a more interesting plot development for King's group of unlikely heroes. A fascinating adventure!
62 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2014
Like the Ice Cream Man's (stop me when I'm passing by), all Stephen King novels are guaranteed to satisfy.
In MR. MERCEDES, King serves up a super-odd, Neapolitan triple scoop: an emotionally-disabled, milquetoast mid-40s lady who still lives with moma; a 6'5" African-American high school kid; and, the main protagonist Bill Hodges, a rather boring, recently-retired and divorced police detective in his mid-60s who failed to solve that last big case (of a Mercedes running over and killing 8 people, including an infant, waiting in line at a job fair).
The novel begins with Hodges parked on his recliner, suffering through the honks of Dr. Phil and drowning his sorrows in a bottle, while occasionally gazing into the end of a loaded revolver's barrel. In the day's mail comes a letter from a guy claiming to be the Mercedes killer, mocking Hodges for his failed efforts to find him. Without providing too many details, the best description I can find for Mr. Mercedes is a psychotic and Oedipal Ice Cream Man bent on toying with Hodges, whom he refers to as "the Det Ret."
As the plot develops, the mismatched trio eventually merge in a rush against time to try saving 4,000 screaming teeny-boppers at a "Round Here" [see, One Direction] concert from the psychotic bomb plot of Mr. Mercedes. Adding to the tension, the kid's mom and sister are in the crowd.
Undeniably, King is still on his game, even without the supernatural to aid his story. The twists in the plot keep coming to build toward a concerto crescendo. This isn't a "character-driven" plodder that'll be taught in lit classes 100 years from now. With the King, The Story Rules and the characters driving the story are sketched with enough detail that you are drawn into the narrative and care what happens.
King is and has been the master of creating the verisimilitude of evil in many forms in the genres of suspense, thriller and horror novels. MR. MERCEDES fits in the 1st of the 3, but it isn't near the Mozartian mastery Stephen King has achieved in the latter 2 genres. Here, while the antagonist is quite creepy, King has painted much darker villains. This psycho isn't evil incarnate; his evil has a cause (probably not THE only cause) and, without revealing too much, it has something to do with a home remedy for headaches, of which the details are so revolting that the reader-results should range from "rendered nauseous" to "released vomitus."
This is more of a modern-day suspense novel, a genre in which novels are churned out so quickly these days their writers remind me of rows of wind turbines on an empty plain. Some are obviously by hack writers, but quite a few have been written by authors as, or nearly as, gifted as Mr. King, who have, unlike him, done this long enough and worked hard enough that they have truly mastered in modern-day suspense. It isn't King's strongest suit. While the bomb plot at a teeny-bopper concert hits REALLY close to home and the internet and car break-in aspects of the story were interesting, I had a difficult time suspending disbelief over the combination of the protagonist detective and his peculiar sidekicks.
This is a perfect beach read though: a rapid-paced suspenseful story with all the torque needed to keep you hooked from chapter to chapter until the end. I am still a big Stephen King fan; I'll buy his next novel, too, as soon as it comes out.
In the genre, I give MR. MERCEDES 4 stars because I enjoyed it immensely, but I think it doesn't stand up to the level of 5 when put up against some of the spectacularly suspenseful novels penned by the top-shelf storytellers, who not only have risen to the talent caliber of Stephen King, they qualify as geniuses in tales of modern-day suspense, at least those that don't involve ghosts, vampires, demon spirits or other supernatural forces of evil.
160 of 203 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2014
What can I say? I'm a huge fan of Stephen King and I've read every book he's written. This is almost his worst, only slightly less painful to read than Under the Dome. It's still Stephen King, and he's still a great story teller. But there are so many points where his dialogue is so fakey and plot points are so stupid it's insulting.
The plot (uncharacteristically weak, slow, and predictable as others have described) centers around an "Extreme Privacy" chat website... where of course you enter your credit card to join, and then you just log in. No password needed, just type in your username. Which is then visible to everyone else on the site. I guess anyone could just log in to your account, huh? That's King's idea of "Extreme Privacy" on the internet, I guess. Funny how that never occurred to anyone. Like, an editor maybe.
Also in this book, King has street thugs saying "bust a cap on yo ass" [sic], tech-savvy teenagers in 2010 referring to the computer case as a "CPU", a young genius bragging about his computer skills by saying "I have the best anti-virus programs money can buy", another tech wiz saying "I know MAC programs inside out", to which her black teenage friend says, quote, "go with your bad self" [sic], and on and on. It just hurts. Every page hurts. I finished it just for completion's sake, but man oh man I wish I had skipped this one.
It's too late for me, but not for you. Save yourself. Don't buy it.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2015
When I was 19-20 years old I tore through all of King's work with enthusiasm, binge reading everything he wrote. He became one of my favorite writers. However, beginning with Under the Dome (likely earlier though) his prose began to strike me as hackneyed, lazy, and tired. You know the feeling you get when someone you care about says something so odd or inappropriate that you are embarrassed for them? King's later work increasingly leaves me with that feeling. His writing now makes me cringe (in a bad way). I must say I've reached my limit. Between this and Under the Dome, I'm done. He just doesn't care anymore. It wasn't always like this.
I'm wondering if it's me that's changed and not him? The reason I'm wondering about this is because his writing is still so obviously King, replete with overly folksy dialogue/inner monologues and constant, obnoxious pop-culture references, but lacking redeeming qualities that used to carry the day. He used to be a great author right? I'm in my mid-thirtees, so maybe I've just grown out of King. He seems to have lost any pride in his writing. Mostly, it just strikes me as lazy and unimaginative. I don't like his characters anymore, they're cliches. The plot is internally implausible as well. He can no longer lull me into a state of suspended disbelief. He's finally lost credibility with me. This book especially.
Dialogue: why does King always have someone jokingly talk like they're a poor illiterate slave? It's not funny. This in conjunction with the antagonist's over the top racist views made me uncomfortable. King's attempts at characterization of african americans is consistently ridiculous - obviously pulled somewhere from television. It's just all so unimaginative. I'll admit, I gave up reading this book a little less than half way through. Eventually, I was reading just out of shock at how terrible it was.
My views are in the minority though. I read the kindle version and it shows popular highlights. Apparently, 331 people thought the statement "you can lead a whore to water, but you can't make her think" was memorable enough to highlight. And, "even on the darkest day, the sun shines on some dog's ass." Why? I don't understand why someone would think this was worth writing down, let along highlight. The former is misogynistic, the latter nonsensical. I usually like gritty characters and dialogue, but the way this detective thinks and talks just falls flat to me.
Protagonist (detective)t: his personality doesn't fit his actions. He just never came across as tough to me. So when he randomly beat up three black kids with a sock filled with ball bearings, it just didn't fit. He's a cardboard cut out. A character that's been done over and over by more vibrant authors than King.
Antagonist (serial killer): very cliched character who supposedly bangs his mom occasionally (Norman Bates much?). Not an interesting psycho path. Supposedly, convinced a woman to kill herself . . . I don't buy it. He's no Hannibal Lecter - not by a long shot.
Peevish: One thing I noticed was the main character, the retired detective, characterized his time on the force differently as the book progresses. In a conversation with a character about 1/3 of the way in, the detective (protagonist) refers to his pre-retirement as when he was 'on the cops.' A memorable phrase that seems a variation of something lifted from The Wire (one of my favorite shows). Additionally, as he thinks about the conversation later, commenting on it internally, he uses the phrase again - 'on the cops.' So at this point, we learn that that's how he mentally characterizes his time as a detective; and likely how other officers in his jurisdiction describe it as well. However, this is the first time the phrase is used. When the character was introduced and fleshed out (with internal musings of his time as a detective, his retirement, the cases he worked, and his partner and fellow officers) that phrase is never used. It conspicuously pops up after we already get to know how this detective talks and thinks. And it stands out as odd. Perhaps it was intentional? Maybe he donned a more glaringly cop-like vernacular to impress the security guard he's talking to, but I don't think so because he uses the phrase when he's thinking about his time on the force later. It seems like something King came up with as the book progressed and thought it sounded good and forgot to go back and alter the detectives way of talking/thinking to accommodate the character's developing voice.ppy it seemed. What particularly killed it for me was the dialogue between him and the sister of the woman that killed herself (when he was hired as a private investigator) and the subsequent conversation between him and the person he hires from the neighborhood to do chores for him. I didn't want to go where the book was taking me. What little interest I had in the plot evaporated. The conversations were all so stilted and unbelievable.**As an aside he references books he's written in the 80s: It and Christine (deflate that ego a little). Perhaps he thinks including references to solid books long ago written could lend legitimacy to terribly written spiel. The setting and plot aren't even tangentially related; therefore, he's no excuse, as in past books.
Finally, it's written in present tense which I find annoying in this context. I guess it's meant to give the story a sense of movement and speed, but it's distracting to me here. Did he do it just cause he was bored with past tense? I know some hard-boiled detective/cop novels use present to great effect. Not so here.
But to ere on the side of caution I'll end by saying, "Steve, it's not you, it's me. I've changed." No . . . I changed my mind. It's definitely you.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2014
Who really wrote this? A unimaginative and plodding story in the pulp fiction genre. I've read everything he has written and never experienced such a departure from the standard of excellence to which I am accustomed from King.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2014
With over fifty titles in circulation - touching on everything from Maine vampires, to Maine aliens, to telekinetic Maine teenagers - Stephen King's work always shares one commonality: suspense. The opening word keeps the reader engaged until the final punctuation mark, no matter how weighty the tome. MR. MERCEDES, King's latest creation, burns bright with energetic tension, but the wattage dims when the characterizations grow stale and the dialogue hammy.
Bill Hodges is a newly retired detective. Monotony besieges him: Judge Judy, sugary food, and suicidal thoughts. After a taunting letter arrives from a mass murderer whom Bill never caught, our hero's purpose is renewed and our story escalates with pulse-pounding close calls and twists that defy prediction. What elevates the story beyond the common retired cop thriller is the villain, Brady Hartfield. He's both monstrous and recognizable - the friendly clerk whose dead eyes defy a nice-guy façade. The author gives us the psychological profile of someone who couldn't help but develop into a psychopath. It's a harrowing history that ably evokes both sympathy and repulsion. Among the small cast we're given, Brady is the one who dominates.
But having one compelling character in a long novel is not enough to distinguish MR. MERCEDES. The story overflows with unnatural banter and bizarrely superficial relationships. Bill Hodges is relentlessly described as an overweight schlub - good-natured, but a schlub nonetheless - yet he's thrown into an instantaneously sexual liaison with an attractive heiress...whom the villain later kills. It's too easy, playing off unreachably distant emotions since the romance between the two is so undercooked and hasty. We like our hero - we root for him - but we're reminded that he's fictive when King chooses such an implausible coupling.
Stephen King rarely wastes his readers' time. Pick up any of his novels, and odds are you'll be rewarded. MR. MERCEDES shows us that King keeps discovering new plots, keeps his audience gratified, but can't overcome the familiar shortcomings that nip at the heels of his swift, nimble stories.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2015
unlike what most people might expect from king, this book taps into the more modern fear of a technologically savvy sociopath. a lot of it still reads like it might be better off being set in the 90s/early 00s than today, but not enough to be jarring. an enjoyable read overall, even if the dual narrators takes a bit of getting used to.
what I liked less was the sometimes clunky omissions of information in order to keep the reader in suspense. sometimes these omissions felt forced and obvious rather than an easy-to-miss glance. like a secret hidden in a big brightly coloured box with a blinking neon arrow pointing at it saying "don't look in the secret box!". I expected more subtlety from a writer as skilled as king.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2014
The negative first. The book is very enjoyable in parts but there is some terribly clunky writing and plotting. One example without spoiling anything that pulled me out of the story, on a social media site a username is not a password, so Hodges the detective is given a way of conversing with the killer that is a username but it is entered by Hodges as the password and allows him entry, then King goes on about how secure and safe this imaginary site is but anyone could post as anyone!! Then King has to come up with reasons why the retired Detective will not tell ex colleagues about his discoveries and sinks as low as they are having a busy day with an arms cache find, no Policeman would be too busy to want to know who a mass murderer is!!
The usual tricks are here, King of course references other novels, this used to send a shiver down my spine but these days he just throws in references in a not massively ingenious way, in this case to three other books I believe in one chapter. There are his very usual shock lines thrown into bland descriptions to catch you out, that kind of thing he always uses where he suddenly says someone has two minutes to live or the two people would never see each other again.
I felt reading the book that King asked a bunch of researchers to provide information like "explain some common traits of serial killers" and "what are retired detectives like" and then spent probably a month tops fitting that into his storyline. The positive is that I read the whole thing in two days and apart from a slight dull lull 30% of the way in it mostly kept me hooked. I found the last few chapters to be very exciting and whilst I am a bit cynical at King's formula sometimes I still enjoy his books.