I have to confess: it has been many, many years since I read a Stephen King novel. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to; on the contrary, I’ve been meaning to catch up on his later works for quite some time now. But for some reason, something always got in the way of me picking one up. Fortunately for me, the fine folks at Scribner asked me if I would like to review King’s latest work, MR. MERCEDES. I jumped at the chance, and I’m very glad I did; this is a heck of a book, and it’s a must-read for fans of King or even thrillers in general.
If you are not familiar with MR. MERCEDES, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Scribner:
In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.
In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.
In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.
Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.
Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.
I think the last novel of King’s I read was NEEDFUL THINGS, way back in 1992. He has always been one of my favorite authors, and I have been reading his work since I was a kid. As such, I have high expectations of his books. I’m happy to report he has not lost much of his flair for writing, if any at all.
As with every Stephen King book I’ve read in the past, MR. MERCEDES is written very well and flows nicely. King writes with the confidence and talent of a veteran, which therefore presents a very enjoyable read. He has a natural propensity for realistic dialogue, which gives the story even more credibility. Combine that with a knack for creating damaged and believable characters, and you can see why he is considered by many to be a master storyteller.
The story itself is disturbing and filled with thrills. I don’t want to divulge too much, but this is a fast-paced tale that might surprise some readers with the way it plays out. I didn’t see a couple of things inside the plot coming, which was a nice treat when they caught me off guard.
My sole complaint about MR. MERCEDES is that, although it is fast-paced for the most part, there are a couple of parts that seem to drag a bit. I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to ruin anything, but those of you who have already read this book will understand what I mean. Thankfully, this only happens twice, and the sections do not last long at all.
I don’t think I would classify MR. MERCEDES as horror per se, but I would definitely say it is a thriller. When I think of King and ‘horror’, I tend to think of titles like IT, CARRIE, SALEM’S LOT, and CUJO. This classification is not a bad thing at all, as it shows King can write in different sub-genres. But I feel it is worth pointing out.
Still, MR. MERCEDES is a huge win for me, and I’m glad to say I am back to reading King’s work once more. I understand this book is the first volume in a projected trilogy, so I can’t wait to see where he goes from here. MR. MERCEDES is available now in a variety of formats, so give it a look for sure.