Sunday, July 19, 2015

Mr. Mercedes

     Brady Hartsfield, aka Mr. Mercedes, is a serial killer.  As a young boy, he kills his handicapped little brother with his mother's help.  Once his  brother is gone, Brady and his mother live together in an incestuous relationship.
     In his early twenties, he decides to kill again.  This time he steals Olivia Trelawney's Mercedes and drives it into a crowd of people waiting in line at a job fair.  Eight people are killed and many more are injured.  He is never caught.  The police accuse Olivia of leaving the car unlocked and allowing the murderer access to her car.  Although she swears she locked the car, there are no signs of breaking and entering or of being hotwired.  Olivia commits suicide a short time later and cements the police's belief that she was guilty.
     Bill Hodges was assigned to the case, but retired without catching The Mercedes Killer.  Six months later, he is divorced, lonely, and suicidal.  His favorite pastime is holding his gun in his mouth while watching daytime tv.  He gets a taunting letter from Mr. Mercedes claiming to be the killer of the eight people at the job fair, as well as driving Olivia to suicide.  The letter also taunts Bill about never catching him and of being washed up and suicidal.
     The letter intrigues Bill to find the killer before Mr. Mercedes can kill anyone else.  He is helped by Olivia's sister, Janey, Janey's mentally ill cousin, Holly, and a young neighbor, Jerome.  Together they race against time to stop Brady before he can kill again.
     I really like this book.  It is fast-paced and hard to put down.  The middle slows a bit, but speeds back up to a memorable conclusion at a concert full of young girls and their mothers.
     The characters are well-developed and interesting, especially Brady Hartsfield.  Stephen King does an excellent job of placing us in the mind of a serial killer whose grip on reality is slipping, especially after his mom's gruesome death.  He is creepy, horrible, and yet, still has moments of love, fear, and regret.  I enjoyed the gray shades in this character, rather than a black and white bad guy.           The same can be said for Bill Hodges.  Although he is a retired police officer and one of the good guys, his quick assumptions about people lead to Olivia's suicide, as well as Janey's death.  The gray shadings of the characters show the sophistication of the writer in developing believable characters that are human, in all of the best and worst ways.
     Although parts of the book, especially the ending situation that keeps all of the other police from being available to help, were contrived to fit the plot, I still enjoyed it.  It is a great mystery novel with good pacing and intriguing characters.  It is different than Stephen King's other novels, but does not disappoint.
     It is part of a trilogy.  The second book in the series is Finders Keepers and the third book has a current working title of End of Watch.

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