Book Review: Mr. Mercedes

I am back with a book review, heck yes! It’s been too long.

I finished this book a bit back, but for some reason never wrote a review. Weird. Because of this, my pros and cons will be shorter than usual.

Summary: In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, 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 two new, unusual 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.

Story: 4/5: This is one of King’s slower books, in my opinion. The first half was good, but left me very underwhelmed. But by the mid point, I got really hooked.

It’s about Bill Hodges, a retired police detective who is becoming bored with the repetition of his life. However, a mysterious letter arrives in the mail one day, and it’s from a mysterious killer called Mr. Mercedes, who had driven a Mercedes into a crowd of people and was never caught. Hodges becomes determined to track down the killer, and is willing to do anything.

This leads us to our other protagonist, Brady Hartsfield, A.K.A, Mr. Mercedes. Okay, his narration was so much fun to read. He’s completely insane, but is good at hiding it. Being inside his mind was so creepy and wrong, but King wrote him so interestingly, it kept your eyes on the page.

These dueling views make for a gripping, fascinating cat and mouse game, with both sides trying to outthink and outdo the other.

Characters: 4/5: King never fails when it comes to his characters. Out of the five main characters I can think of, three of them were truly memorable.

Bill Hodges was a decent protagonist. While he was good as a bored, retired detective, I wish there had been more parts of his personality explored. He left an impression, but not a major one.

Brady has so many problems (which is a given, but I needed to point it out again), I can barely describe him without giving the whole book away, but he was so intriguing, and watching him descend into even deeper insanity was as disturbing as it was interesting.

Janey is the sister of the woman who owned the car Brady used for the murders. After her sister’s suicide, she has been determined to find out who Mr. Mercedes is. Like Hodges, she’s good, but doesn’t leave the biggest impression.

Holly Gibney, Janey’s cousin, may be my favorite character. Some of that has to do with the fact that it’s heavily implied she’s somewhere on the autism spectrum. While media has started to become more open to autistic characters, they’re usually young men. Holly is a middle-aged woman, who has severe anxiety problems to boot. You can tell King did his research, as Holly feels very realistic, consistent to actual autism, and genuine, and plays a major part in the book.

Jerome is Hodges’ 17-year old neighbor, a kid who is incredibly tech smart. He plays the assistant to Hodges’ detective, and his technology smarts help astronomically. He’s also a fast thinker and learner.

Writing: 3.5/5: While I love King’s books and stories, his writing style isn’t my favorite. But the way he writes his characters helps the overall writing a lot. I also like how it was a third person, present tense story.

Details: 3.5/5: I could visualize the characters fairly well, although the setting was a tad harder. But while most authors have problems with too little detail, there’s a lot of detail here, sometimes too much. The detail was mostly about cars, which while important to the plot, is something I have little interest in. Those parts tended to drag a bit, even though they were very important to the plot.

World building: 4/5: There were touches here and there that actually differentiated this world, including stores and bands. And King makes a few funny references to some of his previous works here.

Pros:

  • Interesting look into the mental disintegration of a serial killer
  • A realistically portrayed, implied, autistic female lead
  • Very fascinating cat and mouse game between the two protagonists

Cons:

  • Takes a long time to get into
  • Details about cars made it drag a little for me
  • Some characters were much less engaging than others

Grade: The first half was a clear 3.5 for me. But the second half is easily a 4/5. Because of my enjoyment of the second half, the second grade is more in line with my feelings about the book. King has shown that his books don’t need to be horror to be good, although stories like The Green Mile and The Dead Zone have proven that a long time ago. But with this, he proves that he doesn’t even need supernatural overtones in a full length novel to be engaging and involving. I think the book had a good ending, but it does have a cliffhanger, so I may pick up the next book in the series.

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