28 December 2014

Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King

Yep. Another Stephen King. This one is pretty much a pure detective-adventure novel. It features a retired detective named Bill Hodges, who had investigated a bizarre mass murder committed by an unknown person who drove a large Mercedes Benz 12-cylinder sedan into a crowd of people waiting in line to get into a job fair. The murder was unsolved at the time of Hodges' retirement.

When we meet Hodges, he has settled into an uneasy routine of mostly doing nothing, watching afternoon TV (a show is described that sounds a lot like Jerry Springer), and  contemplating suicide with his father's .38 calibre revolver.

Hodges receives a letter from someone who claims to be "Mr. Mercedes," the murderer in question, and seems to be goading Hodges toward suicide by taunting him with his failure to identify and apprehend the killer.

The investigation and subsequent action build up to speed quickly. Several interesting characters come into the plot, including one Olivia Trelawney, the owner of the car (it was stolen from her, there is no doubt, but there is some belief that she may have left the key in its ignition, thereby making the murderer's job a little easier). Trelawney's sister Janey comes on the scene as well, and is an important part of the story.

One remarkable thing about this book: it is a detective novel, no more, no less. There are no aliens, no supernatural beings, no other dimensions of reality. There is no time travel, no element of weirdness or horror other than those found in real human beings. There is plenty of evil in the character of Mr. Mercedes (we find out who he really is before long), but it is the evil of real life: he is a psychopath.

New York Times review

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