Author: Stephen King| Genre: Thriller | Pages: 405
The story opens in a parking lot where job seekers have lined up to test their luck at a job fair. In the wee-hours, a maniac with a clown mask runs down a Mercedes on the lot killing 8 people and injuring several more and disappears into thin air.
Fast forward to a year later.
Detective Bill Hodges is a retired cop, who whilst lazily watching TV in the sweet comforts of his home, has never been able to put behind the one big regret of his life – nailing Mr Mercedes. So, a year after the job fair massacre, when he receives a letter from Mr Mercedes himself, he pounces at the opportunity like a lion waiting for its prey.
Jerome, a teen, also Hodges’ lawn maker, is more than eager to get on the chase and helps out trace Mr Mercedes with his fantastic tech knowledge. The plot also includes Olivia Trelawney, the middle-aged woman, whose car was the one Brady Hartsfield had used for the mass murder. She could never reel from self-guilt for she considers herself responsible for the murders and drives herself to suicide. Last but not all, Janey Patterson, Olivia’s sister, who wants Bill Hodges to investigate her sister’s cause of death.
The plot is just as good as it gets. The tension starts to build up right from the start and and it is not hard to believe that it is a King novel, for although it lacks some substance of a King literature, one has to make-do with the fact that this is a crime-mystery and not his usual benchmark horror. Once you have your head wrapped around that you might even love the book.
The cat and mouse chase between Hodges and Hartsfield goes from one high to another without so much as a breathing space between twists. That said, there is hardly any scope for unpredictability, for at any given instance, the reader can look through the plot and feel, ‘Okay, I saw that coming!’
Now our hero Brady Hartsfield is an intellectual little genius shit person and you would never believe that he is a maniac who loves blood-dripping drama any particular day. The prose is filled with his smartass quotes. Take this for instance,
“College was for people who didn’t know they were smart.”
But once you have a peek into his wrecked brain-wiring, you have your head nodding to ‘Oh, that is why!’ for every piece of shit he’s ever done. Every effort that the ‘King of Horror’ takes to camouflage his maniacal tendencies is looped back to his dysfunctional upbringing with an alcoholic mother for family and the lurking ghost of a dead younger brother, Frankie. Brady’s smart, he’s badass, he’s revengeful, he’s a character you’ll fall for. Because deep down, he’s just an attention-seeking boy. Here’s why.
“Finally I began to get angry. I wanted to make someone pay. I wanted to strike back at the world and make the world know I was alive.”
You heart does however go out to Frankie, the innocent victim, who was killed or was it an accident? So, Brady Hartsfield does to some extent win your heart for a merciless villain, who also happens to be a sweet young ice-cream seller and c’mon, who in the right mind would hate an ice-cream seller?!
Bill Hodges is your average detective. Here’s what gives a brief account of his personality.
“Hodges eats this diet of full-color shit every weekday afternoon, sitting in the La-Z-Boy with his father’s gun—the one Dad carried as a beat cop—on the table beside him. He always picks it up a few times and looks into the barrel. Inspecting that round darkness.”
Regrets and comfort, is what he’s built his post-retirement empire on. Bill Hodges comes out as an ultimate failure for his character. He is too insipid to figure out things on his own, even though he is a felicitated detective known for his uncanny abilities. If he gets any close to laying hands on Mr Mercedes, he only truly manages that owing to the efforts of Jerome or Holly or Janey. You get the point? So, all in all, he lacks substance and not one of King’s best protagonists. The rest of the characters only blatantly fit in.
The end however, is something, I realised I was reading without a breath. And just how that turned out. It certainly cleared my head off of the chagrin caused through the second half of the book. King sure knows how to end a cliffhanger in style.
If I have to overlook the fact that this is a Stephen King book, I may even like it. Because after all, as someone sworn to King fandom, we have our own set of expectations. Else, I’d say it is good for a one -time read. For just an off-beat, an un-King like experience, this may well pass. Reminds me, “unnecessariness” , is what it is, as Hodges says.
I am now reading the next part in the trilogy – Finders Keepers. The review of which will follow soon.
If you happen to read ‘Mr Mercedes’ or have already read it, do share your thoughts below.