Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #1) by Stephen King
Published by Scribner
Publication date: June 3, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Horror, Suspense
Sorry for the lack of reviews this week, but as a reward for your patience I’m back with the perfect Halloween weekend reading from the master of creepy, Stephen King!
Bill Hodges is a highly decorated, newly retired police detective struggling with the depression of living alone without the motivation of his job. There were a handful of cases he and his partner were never able to solve, but the one that bothers him most was the killing of 8 people by driving into a crowd waiting to get into a job fair after the 2008 recession. A year later and just six months after his retirement Hodges receives an anonymous letter taunting him for his ineptitude in not being able to solve the case. The chilling game of cat and mouse that is Mr. Mercedes begins.
There is a second narrator in the novel, Brady Hartsfield. He is the Mercedes Killer. Not surprisingly he is a very angry white man who lives with his alcoholic mother. The best that can be said about Hartsfield is he’s not a racist. He hates everyone, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality…everyone. Yes, he is the product of a very damaged childhood, but King leans in on making him repulsive with an inner dialogue filled with the vilest slurs and foul language against every human on the planet. If that kind of language is something you don’t want to see in your fiction this would be a book to avoid.
Hartsfield isn’t done causing misery. His harassment of Hodges is in hopes of making him kill himself, but Hodges’ response changes the game, making Hartsfield determined to up his kill count on a larger scale, thus securing (he believes) his place in history. While he plans alone, Hodges is joined by aided by two unlikely helpers, Jerome, a Black high school senior heading to Harvard next year, and Holly, a neurodivergent middle-aged woman who’s been smothered by an over protective mother, but starts coming into her own in the novel.
Mr. Mercedes’ plot could have been pulled from the headlines, but King is a master at taking the ordinary and distorting it. His villains are not possessed of superior intellects or powers nor are the heroes. In the killers it inspires terror, but with characters like Jerome, Holly, and even Hodges himself, their foibles and flaws are reassuring. Their powers are the hidden ones, the little things that might be familiar to many of us.
At a time when chaos and violence are the new normal King’s use of the ordinary as a setting might seem misplaced. Or, at the very least, not the kind of reading to calm the mind. True. But the state of the world has fractured my attention, left me numb, and as fussy in my reading as Goldilocks was with her porridge. Anything that can grab me (even by the throat) and keep me glued to the page is an achievement. That King can do it with people and situations that feel authentic and who make me laugh in the midst of the darkness is a credit to his talent. I loved Mr. Mercedes and am thrilled that not only is it a trilogy, but that King just released a new novel headlined by the character Holly. Fingers crossed for more propulsive reading ahead.
Think you might be interested in Stephen King, but not horror? My favorite of his novels is 11/22/63, a historical novel about the Kennedy assassination.
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