Mister Mercedes by Stephen King
Mister Mercedes, the new tome from the reputed Stephen King, is a shift of direction and style for the author. With buckets of effective and well-tested King trademarks, it lends a pretty basic noir detective story a pair of wildly engrossing wings.
Retired Detective Bill Hodges is living a life that, on some levels, many can identify with – filling his days and his stomach with sloth, rubbish television and junk food. That is until a letter from Mister Mercedes, the catchily-titled mass murderer he never managed to catch, arrives. Boom – off goes the television and a few pounds, and on comes a hunt. It wouldn’t be a hunt, however, without a few hooks thrown in for good measure: a beautiful taboo lover connected to the case, black character Jerome with a “street” alter ago (possibly not King’s most politically correct decision for a sidekick, but he makes up for it by giving Jerome a crucial role in the climax…) and a few twists in the road and there you have it. A damn good read.
The characterisation in Mister Mercedes is excellent. This is really a psychological thriller as much as it is a hunt for the villain – who is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, both dangerous and psychotic. King, however, devotes a good portion of the book to following Brady (Mister Mercedes himself) and this is really what makes the plot. The horror in this book is in the mind – not in the wardrobe, in a gun or in anything tangible. The horror here is within us all and the events that unfold one after the other like a deck of playing cards are plausible; the problem is that the psychopath often hides his ace up his sleeve, and the race to the finale is one that dares you to put down the book. Foreshadowing is present much of the way through, and that’s one of the recognisable King techniques that grips the reader to such a degree.
This is really a very different sort of book to those he has written to great avail before – and it’s all the better for it. It’s a little scripted and predictable at times, but a twist jumps out to catch you by surprise when it’s least expected – a safe read, but an exciting one.
Mister Mercedes is published by Scribner at the hardback price of £20, and is available in the UK on 3rd June 2014. For further information visit here.