Reviewed in the United States on February 11, 2020
I'm not normally a fan of King's non-horror work, but I wanted to have an introduction to Holly Gibney before venturing into The Outsider, and since she was introduced in the Bill Hodges trilogy, I figured I'd give it a go.
Mr. Mercedes is basically the story of a retired detective who comes out of retirement to pursue the one who got away -- The Mercedes Killer -- after being goaded to commit suicide by the killer.
The book starts off strong, with the Mercedes Killer driving a stolen Mercedes to drive it into a job fair, killing 8 and wounding so many others. Then we jump to retired detective Bill Hodges sitting in his living room toying with the idea of swallowing a bullet when a letter comes through the mail slot, a letter that more or less tells him to go ahead and do it. Which means the killer has been watching him. Instead of pushing Hodges over the edge, it invigorates him, and before you know it, he's back on the case again, even if unofficially.
The novel moves along at a swift pace, well, for at least half the book, and then I have to admit, King kinda lost me, and I was tempted to put the book aside. It was a real eye-roll moment for me, and that was when Janey seduces Bill. It was so out of the blue, but so contrived. You can't even call it spontaneous, and you just sit there in dumb disbelief and ask yourself, "Really?" After that, I more or less lost interest in the book, but then I had to remind myself why I started this one in the first place, and that was to meet Holly, and I still hadn't done that yet. So I pushed on, but from this point on, the story never got back on track for me. It just kept moving further and further into the unrealistic. Hodges knows there's a point where he should hand everything over to the police, but stubborn pride doesn't let him. This HAS to be his collar, and it doesn't matter who gets hurt in the process. Not even the death of his "girlfriend" is enough to make him turn it over to the police. He continues his investigation, putting the lives of a teenager and a middle-aged, emotionally challenged woman at risk. It's at this point I found myself turning against Hodges, which I'm sure wasn't King's intention, and found myself rooting for the crazy killer. You WANT Hodges to get his comeuppance, but sadly, it never happens. It all builds up to a totally unrealistic ending in a packed concert hall.
Would I recommend Mr. Mercedes? If you're a die-hard King fan, of course, but if you're one who has been disappointed with his later works, or one who, like me, finds him hit-or-miss (mostly miss, especially in his later books), I'd recommend approaching with caution; the first half worked for me, the second half didn't. Now I have to decide if I want to follow up with the second book in the trilogy.