Review: Mr Mercedes

MrMERCEDES_hbk-animatedBy Stephen King

Hodder, out now

Who is the hunter and who the hunted when uncaught mass murderer Brady Hartfield starts to taunt retired police detective Bill Hodges…?

Stephen King is pumping out the stories at the moment: we had the Shining sequel Doctor Sleep last autumn, and coming in November is his next big book, Revival. This isn’t that sort of book – this is more like a longer version of the material which he produced for Hard Case Crime (although even those books had some supernatural elements). Don’t look for otherworldly explanations here: some of King’s recent short fiction has delved into the psychology of psychopathy, and that’s what we get a lot of here.

I felt at times reading this that had King written this book 20 years ago, around the time of Misery, we’d have only had Brady’s side to the story; the detective side of that particular incident was introduced in the movie. Unlike some such tales of detective and perpetrator, where events in the story force the two to act more like each other, both characters start to become more true to themselves. Both of them find a purpose in life, and re-engage – the detective because he’s needed once more, the murderer because he’s rediscovered the thrill. Both of them start the book lying to themselves; by the climax, that has gone.

Although King’s characters are disparaging about the standard of writing on a lot of the current crop of TV detective shows (there are digs at NCIS, Bones and Dexter among others) there are a fair few clichés on display here starting with the retired cop playing with a gun – and yes, there may be a statistical likelihood of this being accurate, but it still feels clichéd. You can equally be pretty sure of the fate of some of the characters early on, and that they’re going to make some wrong choices along the way to up the tension.

mrmercedes USDespite that, King pulls you into the story from the description of Mister Mercedes’ crime at the start of the novel, and you won’t want to put the book down until you’ve seen this chase through to the end.

Verdict: It’s not classic King, but in his hands this cat and mouse game becomes gripping. 7/10

Paul Simpson

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