Most editors & literary agents know if they want to keep reading a manuscript within those first 8 sentences.
So, today we take a look at Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King.
Book Review of Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Title: Mr. Mercedes
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Thriller/Mystery – First Book in the Bill Hodges trilogy
Det. Ret. Bill Hodges: Retired police detective after 40 years on the job. He’s divorced and has one grown daughter he has contact with only occasionally.
Holly Gibney: 40ish, extremely insecure and has erratic behavior mostly because of the constant badgering by her mother. However, she’s very smart and great with computers. She’s the niece of the woman Bill is dating.
Jerome Robinson: In his late teens and about to graduate high school and go on to Harvard. He is also Bill’s landscaper and neighborhood computer whiz. Jerome and his family are African-American.
Brady Hartsfield: Mass murderer and innocuous looking, unsuspecting bad guy who works at Best Buy. He’s good with computers and lives with his mother (Deborah) who he has an unusually close relationship with.
In The Beginning
The book begins with a heart wrenching mass murder that kills at least 8 people and wounds many more. They are job seekers standing in line before the Job Fair opens for the day.
It’s early in the morning when a dark Mercedes suddenly hurls itself from the parking lot to plow down the unemployed. It’s sad on so many levels and feels waaay too real in this day and age.
King has always been good at poking at our primal fears.
He’s also been good at weaving a great story together and offering us a haunting glimpse into fictional characters that feel like our neighbors. And so it is in Mr. Mercedes.
King seems to excel at starting off a novel in two separate places. We are introduced most often the bad guy in the beginning. We’re shown his environment, he deeds (or The Deed) and some of his connections. We are then introduced to the hero. One or both of the characters are completely unaware of the other.
This sets the stage for the On-Coming-Train Effect as I have come to call it. What I mean by that is the story will slowly converge like two trains coming toward each other. Neither conductor is aware that their trains are on the same track.
As we read we learn more about how the other train ended up on that track. We continue to watch them… converge. We know they will collide, but when? Where? Who will come out in the end and with what damage?
That’s how I felt reading Mr. Mercedes and in particular Finders Keepers. In fact, I find King’s writing to be more extraordinary now than ever.
He’s taken out a lot of the sensational gore in his writing and left in only the necessary blood. It doesn’t feel excessive yet it gets the job done. It’s just enough to make us uncomfortable, squeamish and avoid dark hallways. It’s just enough to make his “bad guy” ring frightfully true.
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So it is with Brady Harstfield. A sad little fellow we’ve all seen and most likely interacted with at the local big box retailer. Utterly generic. Devoid of charisma and steeped in desperation and denial. Who can’t relate to that on some level?
Hartsfield is one of the genre’s less flashy villains, yet he still makes our skin crawl. I hate spoilers in reviews so I won’t get too specific. What I will say is there’s an “unnatural” relationship with his mother and a thorough disconnect with empathy. Some people are born that way. Some people are made that way. In Brady’s case, it seems to be a combination of both.
Ret. Det. Bill Hodges has left the force just six months prior with a nagging unsolved case. The perp of this case was dubbed Mr. Mercedes because of the murder weapon. Hodges left feeling thoroughly unsatisfied and stymied by their progress.
Hodges then receives a letter that (in his mind) opens the case for him again. Being almost computer literate forces Bill to reluctantly recruit two unlikely and worlds-apart sidekicks.
One is Jerome. Hodges’s teenage, African-American lawn-boy who’s smart as a whip and great with computers. And… the niece of the woman he briefly dates.
Holly’s nearly middle aged, acts a like a teenager and requires medication to keep her self sabotaging behavior in check. She is also smart as a whip and great with computers if completely socially inept.
In the end, they play a critical role in helping the retired detective hunt down the bad guy.
What The Author Accomplishes
King makes this unlikely trio make sense to the reader. We can see them working together and it just works. Mostly because they all have respect for each other even if they don’t always understand one another.
Mr. Mercedes is a joy to read. King’s writing is akin to cranking the knob on a tap. The water starts out cool, then tepid, then flows out slightly hotter with every turn until it burns.
I think what makes King’s characters so compelling is his complete lack of condescension. He doesn’t pander to his characters. No matter how small or how large a part they play. They are unapologetically human. With all their flaws and levities exposed for the reader to see.
It’s as if his characters are saying, “Judge as you will, but we will be deemed real and therefore everlasting.”
I can tell you that is exactly what happens. You think of King’s characters and their doings long after you put the book down.
It’s the sign of an undeniable master of the medium.
The Mr. Mercedes trilogy is absolutely worth the read.
I can’t wait to get started on the last book of the series… End of Watch.
This has been my Book Review Of Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
One of his most successful book to a movie transitions wasThe Notebook.
It’s interesting to listen to a writer with a lot of commercial success under his belt talk about his experience.
In the video below from “Shelfie” Sparks talks about some of his favorite authors. You may be surprised to know that Stephen King is one of his favorites.
Sparks says he found King’s books stimulating as a kid and they’ve influenced how he writes now as an adult.
Although Sparks’ novels are a very different genre that Stephen King’s, he learned from King’s writing that a story needs to be told in a way that keeps the reader turning the pages.
That might sound simple, but it’s much harder to accomplish than it sounds.
The last video is an interview from Amazon Books where Sparks goes into much more detail about his writing process.
Sparks is a different type of author in the sense that he writes romances. He loves to write about love. He thinks it’s the most important part of living. Whether that love is with a family member, spouse or pet.
A tidbit from the Amazon Books interview (the last one below) is that Sparks is a producer on the movies his novels are based on. That is very unusual for an author.
In fact, nine of the seventeen novels Spark’s has written have been adapted for film.
He says this about his 20 year writing career,
“What I’m most proud of in my own career is: I never got lazy.”
Find his “advice for writers” section on his website HERE…
He also loved the movie “Field of Dreams” which his book inspired.
It was said he was on the edge of tears when he first saw the premiere of the movie.
While Kinsella is best known for his baseball fiction, he has a prolific output in many genres. This includes novels, short fiction collections, poetry, three baseball plays, and several works of non-fiction.
Kinsella Asked For An Assisted Death
Kinsella died with the help of a physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.