tephan King. You might love him or hate him but some image from his tales will stick with you, be it from words on paper or images on filmstock. A friend of mine always remembers the big wheel rolling through that vast hotel. For me, Roland the Gunslinger reloading a revolver one-handed. Yeah, we all got an ounce of nightmare fuel from him.
Mr. Mercedes isn’t really scary. It’s a little disturbing, especially the bad guy and his relationship with his mother (which is skin-crawling perverse) (I could imagine King’s editors slowing their review pace down at some of those passages). But no, mostly Mr. Mercedes is a crime novel, a hunter and hunted tale that plays back and forth with who’s on top and who’s going to lose.
Turns out the bad guy is a disturbed youth who has had (as mentioned) a very strange childhood. Now, the only way he can feel value is to kill others (to feel superior). In this, he steals a Mercedes and comes out of the fog in the predawn hours to plow through a line of people waiting for a job fair to open. Yes, total down-on-their-luck folks (including a woman with a baby) that get crushed under his tires. And off he goes, delighted that he pulled off a horrific act of terrorism and has gotten away scot free.
But not quite.
The detective who worked his waning days on the force on the Mercedes case has now retired. Now overweight, with an empty life of afternoon TV, he sits in his chair patting his father’s revolver, just waiting for his stars to finally align so he can put it into his mouth and paint the living room wall red. Then a letter drops through the mailslot, a taunting little communication from Mr. Mercedes, the clever fellow who ran over all those people. He goads retired detective Hodges, gloating how he never was found, how he’s free and won’t do it again, but if the good officer would like he can go on an online message board and chat with him about it.
And so Hodges is drawn back in, privately reopening the case on his own (a criminal act in itself, which could land him in jail). The irony being, of course, that in attempting to further push Hodges into suicide, he actually gives the old man a reason to live.
Thus begins the winding tale of case and clue and clever deduction, with us watching as Hodges slowly works out who his perk (intentional – you’d have to read it to know why) is. And meanwhile, the clock is ticking down. The kid has a bunch of plastic explosives and a bucket of ball bearings, a boy band is in town, the stadium will be packed, and it’s up to the retired detective and his weird band of allies to stop him.
I had to read this. We touched down in San Diego and I’d finished Eternity Road on the plane out. Darting into the airport bookstore, I planted myself in fiction, looked up at the titles, saw King and grabbed it. And as I started reading it, I found myself relieved that the tale was sawing through the tedium of real life nicely. A good story, more crime than horror, but worth a read. Check it out.