I inhaled this book. Every time I had a spare moment, I was flipping pages madly. Upon reflection, I probably wasn't very good company for Adam this weekend. I'm powerless to resist the twisted stylings of Stephen King.
His writing is just...effortless. There's no adjustment period; it doesn't take fifty-some pages to settle into the prose. His characters are immediately recognizable, becoming real with just a few well-chosen details. And no one writes a more convincing villain.
This time out, King's protagonist is an endearingly unlikely one: Kermit “Bill” Hodges, a recently retired police detective who spends his days consuming copious amounts of trashy daytime television and prepackaged snack foods. He's shaken out of his sugar coma when he receives a letter from someone claiming to be the Mercedes Killer—one of the few cases Bill left open when he retired from the force.
Suddenly Bill is back in action—pursuing the case on his own time, knowing his investigation is crossing the line but desperate to reel in the bastard who rammed a stolen Mercedes sedan into a helpless crowd waiting to enter a job fair. Not being particularly computer savvy, he enlists the help of his teenage neighbor Jerome, an honor student and Ivy League shoo-in. As Bill and Jerome check out their admittedly minimal leads, they meet Janey, the smart and elegant sister of the woman whose car was used as a battering ram, who enthusiastically joins their ragtag team.
The best thing about this book is its utter unpredictability. The suspense just doesn't quit because King refuses to stick to formula. Bill isn't one of those cheesy, borderline psychic, impossibly intuitive detectives—quite realistically, he occasionally guesses wrong, sometimes with devastating consequences. I wouldn't say King goes to the George R. R. Martin level of merciless character slaughter, but he proves that none of his characters is indispensable. You can relax reading some mysteries, knowing that no matter how thick the danger gets, the main characters will make it out all right. My advice for reading Mr. Mercedes? Don't relax.
Mr. Mercedes is more detective story than bloody slasher horror fare, but King still manages plenty of skin-crawling creepiness. He makes excellent use of the third-person limited omniscient, hopping between Bill's perspective and that of his quarry, the nose-wrinklingly loathsome Brady Hartsfield, a guy with more mommy issues than you can shake a stick at. By the climax, we're so disgusted by Brady's messed-up plans for his next strike that we're desperate for Bill and his unofficial trainees to bag the guy.
It won't be easy. Unfortunately, he has a lot of explosives and a big head start.