The Horror Honeys: Haunted Bookclub ~ Mr. Mercedes

Haunted Bookclub ~ Mr. Mercedes

A Book of the Week Review by Jocelyn

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

I know some readers hate it when their favorite author stretches and tries new genres – I think they see it as going to something like an Eagles concert and hearing Don Henley announce “Tonight we’re only playing stuff off the new album!” when everybody is just there to hear “Hotel California” – so I get wht some of the review for Stephen King’s new book “Mr. Mercedes” are less than glowing, but honestly, I liked it much more than I have some of his recent spooky stuff.  In fact, the last Stephen King book I remember enjoying this much was “11/22/63” which was also a bit outside his normal comfort zone.

Look, almost nobody does scary like Stephen King – but also, almost nobody is as good at capturing internal dialogue and the strange motivations that drive us all.  “Mr. Mercedes” seems to be King in the Ed McBain/Lawrence Sanders vibe and for the most part, it works great.  As someone who tore through all the “Deadly Sin” Sanders books in high school, I felt like I was in a time machine.  All I needed was for the detective in “Mr. Mercedes” to put on a Homburg hat and eat a sandwich over the sink and my time warp would have been fully complete!
The book opens with a doozy of a scene, as we are introduced to down-on-their-luck job hunters in line for a career fair – some have been there overnight.  Their characters are quickly sketched, just enough for us to become engaged, before a heavy Mercedes plows into the crowd, killing eight and injuring many more.  Unbelievably the driver is able to get away and is never caught.  

Fast forward a few years (cue the “Law & Order” chunk-chunk sound) and we meet retired detective Bill Hodges.  Bill is at loose ends these days and finds himself watching lots of trashy daytime TV and playing with his old service revolver more than he should. Through some of Bill’s backstory, we learn that the owner of the car, a nervous matron named Olivia Trelawney, was unable to explain how the car was stolen without being broken into, and eventually committed suicide from the guilt.

When Bill receives a letter from the avowed Mr. Mercedes detailing how he got away with the crime and how much he hopes Bill is thinking of him as the one that got away, the game begins in earnest and a cat-and-mouse chase is quickly in motion.  As we meet the so-called “Mr. Mercedes” and learn more about him, our anger quickly turns to disgust and fear as we realize that he could be a neighbor of ours or the man who comes to offer tech support when we hit CTL-ALT-DELETE a few too many times.  Mr. Mercedes is Brady Hartfield (the matching initials are no mistake), a bland chameleon who lives nearby with his mother and has, let’s say, a pretty unhealthy relationship with her.  His unwavering focus on Detective Hodges quickly widens to include a teenage neighbor, Jerome, who helps Hodges with his household maintenance and researches whatever needs researching.  When Brady realizes a teen-dream band is coming to town for a concert, he seizes the chance to make another big splash and have everybody remember his horrific actions.

With Bill and Jerome doing everything they can to track him down, assisted by Olivia Trelawney’s sister who has come to town with a letter of her own to show Bill, Brady must be increasingly creative in his plans.  Will they catch him before he can blow up a concert hall full of screaming pre-teens? I don’t want to spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that this was a page-turner for me.  I stayed up late to finish reading it and I have no regrets.  It would be a terrific David Fincher movie if he’s in the mood to make it, but if all you get is the book, you’ll still have a good time.

Four out of five bloody fenders for this one.