My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is one of King’s thrillers, with no supernatural elements, and because of that it has a decent ending, a plus right from the start…er, finish.
Mr. Mercedes is a book with few surprises. The good guys have their flaws but they’re all nice people. The bad guy is a psycho with loads of issues but not so much that you feel any real sympathy for him, more pity than anything.
The good guys–recently retired police detective Bill Hodges, a teenage boy who helps the Hodges with various chores, and a woman in her mid-40s with mental issues–are sufficiently clever enough to put together the identity of a mass killer that Hodges couldn’t collar before retiring. The villain, the 30ish Brady Hartsfield, is portrayed as a man brilliant with technology but one who also shifts between thinking of everything and being strangely careless and sloppy. In a way the depiction of the protagonists and antagonist reminds me of Stoker’s Dracula, where the heroes easily outmatched the vampire. Here the retired Bill Hodges and helpers make all the right guesses and even when they slip up they recover in time. Brady not so much.
King gets most of the technical details right, though there is some over-explaining, particularly by one character to another. There is the expected noble sacrifice and the brief final scene is a cute callout to Halloween.
The way I’ve described the book probably makes it sound predictable, even boring, yet King’s writing is smooth enough I found myself willing to forgive the flaws. It also helps that I don’t read a lot of thrillers so I’m likely easier to please in that regard.
Thumbs up, then. This is better than King’s sloppiest work but falls short of his best.