After dissecting the first one hundred pages of Stephen King’s paperback release Doctor Sleep, his sequel to The Shinning, we now move to his newest novel the dark disturbing thriller Mr. Mercedes in our new feature 100 pages of Horror.
But first I must make a confession and that is I have never ever read a full Stephen King book. Although a massive fan of his work in its many filmic and televisual forms, his actual novels have always escaped me and when I did try to read one way back when I was very young I found it too slow to start and ended up giving up.
With that in mind I was pleasantly surprised with Mr Mercedes which goes from 0-100 in the first 11 pages detailing a terrifying mass murder by introducing us to unemployed Augie who travels in the middle of the night to queue outside a job fair alongside hundreds of others desperate to get work during the 2009 crash.
Meeting single mother Janie and helping her with her baby, which she had to bring along because of her dire straits, Augie feels like his life might just turn around that is until he turns around and sees the giant grey Mercedes heading for the crowd not stopping but literally mowing through the packed in people, shredding skin, crushing bones and brutally killing the mother and child he only just met.
Years after Mr Mercedes murdered the unemployed innocents the detective who investigated the case Kermit “Bill” Hodges is now retired and living out the stereotypical life of a cop turned civilian sitting at home, eating crap, drinking too much, watching trash TV and seriously contemplating suicide.
Popping into his usually predictable post a letter suddenly appears penned by the killer he never caught Mr Mercedes himself and taunting him with a whole host of disgusting, descriptive sadistic sentences revelling in his crime and revealing he has been watching Hodges sad existence and is well aware that he wants to die.
Although the killer claims he won’t strike again the letter is enough to incite not only Hodges interest but his lust for life as he sets about starting his own investigation into the now stone cold case, digging up leads, meeting with his old partner and discovering what happened to the women whose car the killer used.
It turns out she ended her own life but Hodges is unaware that Mr Mercedes whose real names is Brady Hartfield drove her to her death the same way he drove the car into the crowds, both times just for fun. He now wants to send Hodges along the same path and his letter, with an open invitation to chat on a social network site, is carefully crafted to hook the retired detective in.
Inspired by the true events of a woman who drove her car into a McDonalds the book has a strong sense of being set in the real world with references not only to various TV shows, movies and events but even to King’s own work as he mentions the mask Mr Mercedes wore resembles Pennywise.
This post modernism is perfectly utilised in the opening chapters introducing Hodges as he is set up as a clichéd retired cop with no purpose and then this image is parodied and attacked in Brady’s letter completely flipping everything you thought.
Taking up the stories of both characters, the killer and the cop, King moves between the two voices seamlessly, joining them up by showing their many similarities as well as their many differences.
Neither Hodges nor Brady is particularly likable and both are complex characters playing roles in their separate worlds that betray the internal struggles we as the reader are privileged to hear.
After the excellent and shocking opening where King seems to kill off all his characters the counter play of the two leads entangled in a deadly game of cat and mouse is instantly engaging and his description of Brady’s mentality is darkly disturbing taking us deep into the fractured mind of a psychopath.
Gripping you like two hands on a steering wheel Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes has a great opening driving you through the first 100 pages with its foot to the floor and I for one am ready to go back and read the rest.
Mr Mercedes is out now and check out this stunning trailer is compiled of the 5 mini-animations that were released via Facebook, with a new scene featuring Mr Mercedes himself. Each of the 5 mini-animations featured a different character from King’s celebrated books revealing details about Mr Mercedes: