BookShots: 'Mr. Mercedes' by Stephen King

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Mr. Mercedes

Who Wrote It?:

I think it's going to get a lot darker, more violent, and more intense if it heads in the direction I think it might.

The king of horror, Stephen King, author of more than 50 books.

Plot in a Box:

When an unsolved mass murder occurs, a Mercedes driven into a crowd, killing eight people, the police investigate, but never catch the killer. Retired cop Bill Hodges is haunted by the unsolved crime, so years later when the fugitive reaches out to him, things can only go from bad to worse. Will he strike again?

Invent a New Title For This Book:

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Read This If You Liked:

The City by Dean Koontz, Invisible by James Patterson, or the bulk of King's more realistic fiction, such as Joyland, or his supernatural thrillers, like The Dead Zone.

Meet the Book’s Lead(s):

Bill Hodges is a retired cop, a bit overweight, and living alone, constantly putting his gun in his mouth, looking for the will to pull the trigger. Brady Hartsfield is our killer, living in the basement of his mother's house, where their dysfunctional relationship continues to blossom, his desire to kill always just beneath the surface. In smaller roles are the mentally and emotionally challenged Holly Gibney, and the teenage African-American sidekick, Jerome Robinson. Yes, it's a motley crew, but they have a lot of heart, and a great sense of humor.

Said Lead(s) Would Be Portrayed In a Movie By:

Bill Hodges has a kind of Dennis Farina (Get Shorty) vibe or maybe Dennis Franz (Hill Street Blues). I see Brady Hartsfield as kind of a young Keifer Southerland (circa The Lost Boys), or a young James Spader (circa Sex, Lies and Videtape).

Setting: Would You Want to Live There?

Set in the Midwest, in present-day society, it's not a bad place to be. Feels a lot like Peoria, IL or maybe St. Louis, MO.

What was your favorite sentence?

Every religion lies. Every moral precept is a delusion. Even the stars are a mirage. The truth is darkness, and the only thing that matters is making a statement before one enters it. Cutting the skin of the world and leaving a scar. That’s all history is, after all: scar tissue.

The Verdict:

I tend to enjoy the King books that lean into the supernatural more than his crime and thriller novels, but this was a fun ride, kept my attention, and was a fairly easy read. I just read Dr. Sleep right before this, and I have to say that I think I liked that one better. BUT, this is also the first book of a trilogy, the second, Finders Keepers, out in 2015. They left Mr. Mercedes open-ended so you could see that it was going to continue.

King always does a great job with world-building, whether it's the miserable life of a retired cop or the great expanse that is the Dark Tower series. He injects a lot of great details, from the ice cream man to the technology to the way that people interact with their neighbors. He makes it very easy to slip into his novels, and I can always picture them, live in them, feeling very comfortable, the framework built up around me.

Some of his endings have been a bit anticlimactic lately. I'll say that about Dr. Sleep, even though it did get me teary-eyed, but I'll hold that back for this one, since it's really a much bigger story. I think it's going to get a lot darker, more violent, and more intense, if it heads in the direction I think it might.

If you like Stephen King, then you'll like this book. If you think he's hit and miss, then this one certainly won't rock your world. It's not the book I'd give you to start with his bibliography (that would probably be The Stand, or It, or The Shining) but it's an enjoyable read and worth picking up, especially if you're a big fan of his writing.

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Richard Thomas

Column by Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas is the award-winning author of seven books: three novels—Disintegration and Breaker (Penguin Random House Alibi), as well as Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications); three short story collections—Staring into the Abyss (Kraken Press), Herniated Roots (Snubnose Press), and Tribulations (Cemetery Dance); and one novella in The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books). With over 140 stories published, his credits include The Best Horror of the Year (Volume Eleven), Cemetery Dance (twice), Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders (Bram Stoker winner), PANK, storySouth, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Qualia Nous, Chiral Mad (numbers 2-4), and Shivers VI (with Stephen King and Peter Straub). He has won contests at ChiZine and One Buck Horror, has received five Pushcart Prize nominations, and has been long-listed for Best Horror of the Year six times. He was also the editor of four anthologies: The New Black and Exigencies (Dark House Press), The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk. He has been nominated for the Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, and Thriller awards. In his spare time he is a columnist at Lit Reactor and Editor-in-Chief at Gamut Magazine. His agent is Paula Munier at Talcott Notch. For more information visit

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