Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on January 19, 2015
When Stephen King writes a “thriller” novel, one can expect: death (how many and who adds to the anticipation), the characters are going to be sufficiently developed that their survival actually matters, at least one of those well-defined characters will not see the end of the novel and the culprit will be so common and obvious so as to create maximum terror in the readers daily life, all leading to a conclusion that will be satisfying, frightening and complete. Mr. Mercedes is Stephen King at his “thriller” writing best.
“Mr. Mercedes” is the name given to the masked driver who drove a Mercedes into, over, and through a crowd of jobless people gathered at a city job fair, killing eight and maiming dozens. Bill Hodges was lead investigator of that crime but he retired before he could catch this mass murderer, one of a very few crimes he did not solve in a highly decorated, forty-year career as a police officer. Months after his retirement, spending his days in mindless television, comfort eating and contemplating suicide, Det. Ret. Hodges receives a personal letter from Mr. Mercedes. The letter is crafted to taunt Mr. Hodges into moving from merely considering suicide to taking action in that direction. The action he does take, however, is of a far different sort than the letter writer intended; instead of quieting a possible threat, the letter “woke the wrong dog.”
The reader knows the identity of Mr. Mercedes from an early point in the novel. The tension is built in the “Cat and Mouse” actions taken by both of the main characters, through the development of the characters and the near constant shifting of possibilities. What I thought were thin plot points turned out to be red herrings (but only those who have read several of Mr. King’s novels would see these false clues), were part of the “shifting focus” of Mr. Mercedes mind and/or the little touches that add dimension to fictional characters. What I “knew” would happen early in the story quickly turned to befuddlement as the characters began to “live” rather than remaining flat on the page and doing the things one would not expect in lesser fiction.
Fortunately, this novel is not over-written, as have some of Mr. Kings recent novels (Under the Dome, 11/22/63) have been. The writing is fluid, less wordy and more direct in its storytelling. I do not see this novel being made into a movie, too much of the action takes place in internal dialogue (the book is written from the third-person perspective) and much of the “action” would be lost in trying to film what needs to be imagined.
This novel, as is true with most of the authors “non-horror” writing, elicits fear by revealing the villain to be somebody’s next-door-neighbor, the reader expects their next-door-neighbor could be a villain. In writing such evildoers, Mr. King is rewriting the adage, “Good fences make good neighbors” to read “good fences keep the psychopath next door away.”
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