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10 July 2014

Stephen King: MR MERCEDES

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An automobile in the wrong hands is as dangerous as an assault rifle
Stephen King has written a humdinger of a thriller which starts with a bang and continues to hold you on the edge of your seat till the very end.

Everyday we drive automobiles that could be as dangerous as an automatic assault rifle. In the hands of MR MERCEDES an automobile mowed down a crowded line of desperate job-seekers waiting for what was advertised as "1,000 GUARENTEED JOBS". (Was this a deliberate misspelling or an editing mistake?) At the height of the recent US recession there were many hopeless people seeking any job available. Janice Cray, a single mother, was one of the most desperate and she had to bring her young baby Patti with her for the long wait in the cold and damp early morning hours. She is befriended by Augie Odenkirk who gives up his sleeping bag for Patti. None of them realises that the grey Mercedes driving over the parking lot was going to accelerate into the crowd and end their lives and those of many others and shatter the lives of the seriously injured.

Brady Hartfield is a sociopath who lives with his alcoholic mother. He was the driver of the Mercedes and the only person who enjoyed that day. The power of the slaughter excited his sociopathic mind and everyday he re-lived the excitement of the slaughter, especially the death of the baby. To increase his excitement he tracks down and targets those who have been inadvertently involved, the owner of the stolen Mercedes and the detective who was unable to solve the case.

Detective William Hodges has recently retired but is still haunted by the cases that he was not able to solve especially the Mercedes Killer. He has become overweight and depressed, leading a solitary and  unmeaningful life spending long hours watching senseless TV, and even contemplating suicide. One day he gets a letter from someone claiming to be the Mercedes Killer which brings him out of his depression and onto the trail of the killer on his own. His big worry is that the killer may have something even larger planned.

King then takes the reader on a hell of a ride with twists, turns, cul-de-sacs and switchback rides while Hodges, an unexpected lover and a weird mixture of Camel Club type friends try to track down the killer before he can strike again. The killer taunts them and hurts them while he plans his ultimate terror strike.

King builds up a chilling picture of the development of a sociopath and his thinking processes, and the impact of retirement on a person whose life has centred around his job. His writing skills are brilliant to the very last sentence, which made me laugh out loud. You need to read right through to the end to see what I mean.

Stephen King is a master storyteller and in MR MERCEDES shows that he can again write a rattling good book outside the horror genre. The only other book I have read by Stephen King is his time vortex novel 11/22/63 about the assassination of President Kennedy - this one nearly matches the outstanding quality of that story. I would highly recommend MR MERCEDES to all Stephen King fans and also to others, like me, who are hesitant to read his other books because of the horror context.

My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book for my review.

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