Saturday, March 18, 2017

Review of "Mr. Mercedes" by Stephen King

I was surprised by this book because unlike Stephen King's usual horror stories it's a detective thriller.

Retired Detective Bill Hodges isn't having fun. He sits at home watching television, drinking beer, eating too much, and mulling over his failures. Hodges is especially irked because he didn't catch the psychotic killer dubbed 'Mr. Mercedes' - so called because he used a stolen Mercedes car to plow through a crowd of people. Even more than killing people directly, however, Mr. Mercedes gets his kicks from psychologically manipulating them. First he convinces the Mercedes owner to kill herself because she left her key in the car; then he tries to get a depressed Detective Hodges to commit suicide by writing him sly letters. Mr. Mercedes carries out these untraceable schemes using a sophisticated high-tech computer lab he maintains in his basement.

The detective, however - rather than killing himself - becomes inspired to renew his search for the deranged killer. Along the way he falls in love, recruits the assistance of a whip-smart teen headed for Harvard, and gets help from a neurotic middle-aged woman who can barely take care of herself but is a whiz with computers.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mercedes - infuriated because Detective Hodges isn't doing what he wants - plans more horrific mass murders. Mr. Mercedes is a clever guy who has two jobs that help him plan/carry out his crimes: he's a computer repairer, which gives him access to people's computers and information; and he drives an ice cream truck, which makes him almost invisible as he spies on people around town. He also lives at home with an alcoholic manipulative mother, with whom he shares a dark secret.

The book, told from alternating points of view of Mr. Mercedes and Detective Hodges, is an exciting page-turner: we can't wait to see what Mr. Mercedes will do next, and how Hodges and friends will try to stop him. It's a good book with interesting characters, highly recommended for folks who enjoy thrillers.

Rating: 4 stars

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