Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy #1)
Stephen King, 2014
Just before dawn, a man in a Mercedes drives into a crowd of people waiting outside a job fair. Eight people, including a mother with her infant daughter, are killed, fifteen more are wounded, and the driver is able to get away and disappear without a trace. When Bill Hodges retires from the police force a few months later, the Mercedes Killer is one of his few unsolved cases, but with no leads and no sign of the killer committing any more crimes, the case remains at a dead end… Until Hodges receives a letter in the mail from Mr. Mercedes himself.
There are two types of Stephen King books. The first type is the scary, supernatural monster type: It, The Shining, Christine, and Pet Sematary, to name a few. The second type is about people – often demented, psychopathic people, but still they’re more stories about how people behave than about monsters: The Green Mile, Misery, and Under the Dome. (I’d actually argue that It is one of the few that straddles both types, as it is really a great story about adolescence, friends, and growing up, but it does have a killer monster demon clown as a major plot point, so I’ll put it in the first camp).
Mr. Mercedes falls squarely into the second type of book. There are no monsters, except for Brady Hartfield himself. (This is not a spoiler, by the way – half of the book is told from Hartfield’s point of view, so we know he’s Mr. Mercedes pretty much from the get-go.) But Hartfield is a serious psychopath, to the point that I sometimes wonder if I should be worried that King is able to write so well from the point of view of this kind of character. It’s fascinating, however, to see the world from the point of view of a character like this, which is why I think I liked this book so much.
There isn’t a whole lot of violence or gruesome imagery in the book, so squeamish types shouldn’t worry too much – although there is a scene involving strychnine that, I’ll warn you, is pretty cringe-worthy. The horror in this book isn’t from gore or monsters, but simply from reading about an extremely disturbed individual.
This actually ended up being one of my favorite King books that I’ve read up to this point (and I’ve read about 2/3 of them). It had really well-written characters, it had me on the edge of my seat, and it left me feeling slightly disturbed, as any good horror should. I’d recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of King’s second type of books, especially something like Misery. King has been sort of hit or miss for me with his books over the past few years, but this one was definitely a hit.