Written by: Wayne C. Rogers
As I mentioned to another person, Stephen King’s newest novel, Mr. Mercedes, does for the Mercedes-Benz manufacturer what Misery did for number one fans and Christine did for the 1958 Chrysler Plymouth Fury. I’ll never look at another Mercedes sedan the same way after reading this book and will most certainly watch my when crossing the street. If I see a Mercedes, I’m running like hell in the opposite direction.
Anyway, it’s easy to forget because of all the horror novels and short stories that Stephen King has written over his very long career that he also writes psychological suspense and what I would call hardcore drama. Think of The Body (a.k.a. Stand By Me) or The Shaw shank Redemption or Cajon or even one of his newer novels, Joy land (I’m reading that right now), and you get the idea. Mr. Mercedes would probably be classified as one of his psychological suspense books because it deals with a serial killer who used a Mercedes Benz sedan to crash into a crowd of job seekers, killing eight and injuring dozens more. This isn’t Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lector, but it is pure Stephen King at his best.
Brady Hartsfield is crazy and knows it. Still, he has to occasionally scratch the itch in the middle of his back by killing people. That helps him to relieve the stress of day-to-day living and the rather unusual relationship he has with his mother (think Norman Bates). One early morning before a job fair opens, Brady drives into a large group of job seekers with a Mercedes Benz. It’s the most fun he’s ever had, running over the bodies and killing men and women and even a little baby. This is what God make the Mercedes Benz for because it handles perfectly over the rough terrain.
Unfortunately and by a sheer stroke of luck, Brady manages to get away with the mass murders. The lead detectives who are assigned the case, Kermit William Hodges and Pete Huntley, do their best to track down the killer and nail his ass, but fail before Hodges finally retires after an honorable career on the police force.
Time drifts by and Brady decides he doesn’t like being placed on the back burner and that maybe it’s time to have a little fun again. So, he sends the retired detective a letter, hoping to drive him to suicide, to give him that little nudge a lot of retired cops need to put the gun into their mouths. It’s not that Hodges isn’t thinking about eating a bullet, but the letter ends up having just the opposite effect and gives the old man a reason to keep pushing forward. He now wants to catch Mr. Mercedes in the worse way and then hand him over to his former partner.
Brady, however, isn’t so easy to catch and soon comes to the conclusion that it might be more entertaining to take out hundreds and even thousands of people in one big gigantic bang, letting the detective know just much of a loser he actually is.
One thing quickly leads to another and it soon becomes personal for Bill Hodges. His goal now isn’t to catch Mr. Mercedes, but to kill the SOB before he can hurt any others. It’s going to be a race to the finish line as both seek their own just rewards and subconsciously form a bond with each other as the specter of certain death looms ahead. .
As I said earlier, Mr. Mercedes is Stephen King at his best. The author is now in his mid-sixties and continues to write one winner after another. In the last few years King has written the anthology of horror novellas, Full Dark, No Stars, a novel in which a lone man from the future attempts to prevent President Kennedy’s assassination in 11/22/63 (certainly one of the best novels I’ve ever read), and then there’s the sequel to The Shining that gives us a closer, more terrifying look at Danny Torrance’s life as an adult in Dr. Sleep. And, let us not forget last summer’s Joy land, which deals with a serial killer doing his nasty business inside an amusement park’s House of Horrors.
This is an author who has progressively gotten better and better at writing over the last forty years (if that’s even possible for a writer of King’s merit to do). I now refer to Stephen King as The Maestro because his really is the master of the written word. There are authors out there who make more money and write more novels each year, but one day soon, the world will recognize Stephen King as the greatest author of the 20th Century. I kid you not.
The novel, Mr. Mercedes, will grabs you in the first few pages and shake the living daylights out of you as it propels you toward the ending at light speed. The sentencing and descriptions of people and places draw you into the story on the very first page so that you’re living with the characters as they play cat and mouse with each other and head to an utterly gripping climax. The lead characters and secondary characters come to life as full bodied, flesh and blood people who are either on the side of evil or the side of good, much like the individuals who surround us in our daily lives. The storyline is simple really; yet, totally compelling in its ability to shock and surprise the reader. Even more so, the author leaves us with an ending that feels right and natural.
Mr. Mercedes is definitely a winner from this fabulous author who knows how to scare himself and the reader with his carefully chosen words and dark-loving mind. This is a novel not to be missed, but rather to be treasured and savored as most of Stephen Kings books are. Last, this is a story that needs to be told on the big theatrical screen. There are few things I find more frightening than laying on the tarmac and watching as a huge Mercedes sedan drives straight at your face.
Oh, and lest I forget, the Maestro has another fantastic novel coming out this fall titled, Revival. Be prepared to face the ultimate fear as a young boy bonds with a fanatical preacher and encounters the true meaning of horror.
Like last year and the one before it, 2014 will be another great year for Stephen King!