Mr. Mercedes, Stephen King (2014)
Inspiration to Read:
I was ‘in-between’ books, and unsure what to choose next. I often return to King’s novels if I’m unsure what fiction to read because I think he’s reliable for good writing and storytelling.
Most of my initial reactions to the book were contrary to my standard thoughts of King’s books: that he is a standard and good storyteller. I believe King often relied on cliches while writing about a retired detective and his search for the criminal who ‘got away’ before he could catch him. The criminal, called Mr. Mercedes or the Mercedes Killer, communicates with Ret. Det. Hodges after he’s interested in toiling with Hodges’ psyche after the boredom of retirement has gripped him. The detective–self-described as old and fat–even wins over a much younger woman. King’s creativity is reflected in the cat-and-mouse crime, but not in many other facets of the story.
Communication–its various methods and how we utilize them–is what I might call a theme in the novel. Mr. Mercedes opens communication with Hodges through a mailed, typed letter. In it he invites Hodges to join him for two-way conversation on a site called “Debbie’s Blue Umbrella”, a high-security version of AOL. Mr. Mercedes writes with a unique style and tone to maintain his cover, but Hodges is skilled at interpreting and seeing through it. Through this theme King plays to age stereotypes, making Hodges rely on others to help him use and type on a computer. He is similarly defunct with remembering to carry his cell phone on his person. Sometimes these details in the book, although relevant, seemed trite and too easy for King to rely on.
Although this book didn’t spark for me, I continued because the writing had redeeming qualities. The narration is entirely third-person omniscient, but the story switches between Hodges and Mr. Mercedes’ focus. The reader knows their impending steps and even how it will likely affect the plot, but the anticipation that the other character does not made for, at times, a thrilling read. It was an interesting style to pair with the communication the criminal and retired detective shared, because it was uncommon, but also predetermined and filled with mind-games to trick one another. King allowed his reader to know more than the characters did, and for this plot I believe that proved fascinating and to be a really good hook.
(Please note: I was not paid to write about “Mr. Mercedes.” I obtained the book by my own means and am just a fan.)