A cat-and-mouse suspense thriller featuring Bill Hodges, a retired cop who is tormented by ‘the Mercedes massacre’, a case he never solved.
Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of that notorious crime, has sent Hodges a taunting letter. Now he’s preparing to kill again.
Each starts to close in on the other in a mega-stakes race against time
Author: Stephen King
Narrator: Will Patton
Audio Release Date: 03/06/2014
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Running Time: 14 hours and 21 minutes
My Rating of ‘Mr Mercedes’: 5 out of 5
Purchase: Audible UK
Widely known as the King of Horror; it was quite a surprise when I learned that ‘Mr Mercedes’, a book I assumed to be a crime novel with some of King’s trademark horror elements, was actually just a straight up crime/thriller novel. I learned this little fact a good way into the book’s life … I think the entire trilogy was out before I realised that the ‘King of Horror’ had tried something non-horrory. At this time I had just finished reading ‘The Bat’ by Jo Nesbo and wanted to sample a different voice in the crime genre. I already had a massive love of Stephen King’s works so thought I’d give his first effort into crime/thrillers a go.
My initial concerns that, despite reading that it was a crime book, there would be some strange supernatural element to it were ill-founded. It is literally a straight-up crime/thriller. There are a few liberties taken with tech (that don’t work in real life) but they are addressed in the excerpt at the end. And, it’s fiction. Every author takes a liberty or two here or there.
One thing I like about crime novels is trying to figure out who the criminal is before the protagonist has solved the crime and filled the reader in on the particulars. This is why I loved Sherlock Holmes so much. Sadly, in ‘Mr Mercedes’ the reader doesn’t get this joy. Pretty much right away we are introduced to the man behind the Mercedes Killings and he becomes one of the main POVs in the novel. I thought this would sour my experience of the book. After all, where’s the mystery? Where’s the allure of trying to figure out an answer you already know?
It’s still not there, obviously. Total lack of mystery and backseat detective work. However, what you are treated to is a non-stop thrill-ride as Detective Hodges and Mr Mercedes play a game of cat and mouse. King’s writing style, which is normally quite slow and ponderous before launching into a rich story made all the better by the character building he did in the slow and ponderous part, is completely different. The world and character building are still there. The rich writing and clever turns of phrase are still there. The racism you come to expect from King villains is ever-present. So much so that even a family dog is quite heavily racially abused. So all of the King-isms to make you hate or love characters are still there. They are just done with a bit more zip so the story feels like its flying along rather than crawling.
At times, I often felt (as did a friend I recommended the audio book to) there were parts where I was thinking how ‘I’m almost certainly near the end’ only to find there was still three hours of story left. So I often thought that perhaps he made it drag on a little too long. Then the story would carry on and I’d be glad that it did, as some new twist would occur that gave more flavour and depth to the story.
A lot of people have said how ‘King uses every trope possible for a crime novel’. My reply to that would be: Who cares? I enjoyed this more than any crime novel I can remember reading.
One thing that absolutely astounded me for a King story was the ending. At no point did he write himself into a corner, stare at the screen with sweat beading on his brow, and scream ‘ALIENS DID IT!’ before hitting save and sending it to his publisher. It was refreshing for an ending to feel as though it belonged and made sense. Something I can’t say the same of for stories such as ‘Under the Dome’ or ’11.22.63’. Both were two books I fell in love with but both were two books that had endings that made me angry/frustrated that I had spent so long reading only to be fobbed off with a weak ending. And yes, I know, I do think it an impossibility to write a King review without referencing some of his weaker endings. It will always be a thing with me.
It may well be a long while before I clear my audio schedule enough to get onto the next in the series (currently listening to Black Ocean which is a staggering 85 hours long) but I do look forward to eventually getting there.