Mr Mercedes – Stephen King

Stephen King is a great writer. This is not his best work. Is it worth reading? Let me think about that. Meantime, some context.

What’s the story?

Spoiler alert!

The book opens with a mass murder. Bill Hodges is the lead character, and he is the policeman who never caught that killer. Years later, the killer reappears, taunting the retired Hodges, threatening to kill again. So the focus is on the pursuit by Hodges – labelled a cat and mouse game – to find the killer. But Hodges has no authority, and no standing. He has no private investigator’s license. His hunt is decidedly illegal, not least his withholding of evidence from his old police colleagues.

The book is promoted as King’s masterclass in crime fiction. That is hyperbolic nonsense. It is a crime story, and parts of it (such as the opening) are excellent. However, it felt as if there was no clear direction at times. For example, in some cases the character interaction comes across as a cliche – perhaps an attempt at comedy – that doesn’t work. There are other times when I felt that the whole book was a long winded introduction for three characters, so that King could do follow ups, thus paying less attention to the current book.

The ending has a fair bit of tension, and is a match for the opening. But in the middle, the story telling sags, and the characters seem to do the same.

I so wanted this to be a glorious read, but it wasn’t. The funny thing is that I might still want to read the next one, because the three characters that end up forming a team are interesting, and their efforts might inspire a better experience. Perhaps this outing was like an apprenticeship for them?

On balance, I could not recommend it, unless you are a die hard King fan. Whatever the plan was, it didn’t work.