Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King

Mr Mercedes - Stephen King

Reading a King novel has become an annual thing for me the past few years. Previously I read a couple gigantic "classics" (It and The Stand). This time I went for something more recent: the first book in what's become the Bill Hodges trilogy, Mr. Mercedes. A detective thriller rather than horror, the book maintains suspense while shifting between mostly Hodges's pov and the killer's. It's a dance where sometimes the ex-detective is in the lead, and sometimes the "perk" (as the latter mistakenly terms a perp).

 

As always, the characters and story were engaging, and you can count on King for humor and an interest in contemporary popular culture. A key scene is set at a fictional boy band concert, clearly a One Direction nod. I love that despite the killer's nasty take on the scene, we see a mother, daughter, and friends enjoying the experience.

 

When I've come across reviews of this series, the lead characters are always mentioned as a draw: Hodges and his unofficial partners Jerome and Holly. They're an odd, interesting trio: an old ex-cop, a super-smart and charismatic black teenager, and a neurotic, middle-aged womanchild just coming into her own.

 

Sometimes Jerome's intelligence and middle-class background are highlighted a bit too much, as if to say, "He's black but not poor or a criminal! Aren't you surprised?" And the killer is not only that, he's racist, misogynist, ableist--every kind of -ist--to boot, like we needed those things to really find him awful. I'm not saying it's unbelievable that such a sociopath would hate people generally, but it's a bit of an anvil dropping on your head.

 

I do wish Holly had shown up or become involved sooner. I struggled to care about Janey, a victim's relative, and actually hoped she'd be killed; I don't think I was supposed to feel that way. :) Janey feels like she exists to help Hodges get on his feet again and to give him motivation to get the killer (in other words, she feels like a plot device, not a person). Holly has an actual arc despite not being present for about half the book.

 

Despite these couple caveats, I'll definitely read the next book in the series when I'm in the mood for a thriller and eager to spend more time with these characters.