Stephen King's new novel, Mr. Mercedes, is a dark crime tale that involves a twisted, murderous contest of wits between a retired cop and a manipulative sociopath.
The retired cop is former Detective Bill Hodges. His sociopath adversary is Brady Hartsfield, a mass murderer who drives an ice cream truck. Brady had earlier plowed a stolen Mercedes into a crowd of people, doing horrendous damage before escaping. It was a case that Detective Hodges never closed before retiring.
The killer is back again with a taunting new letter to Hodges that reopens his investigation and sets off a new battle between the cop and the killer that moves inexorably toward another coming mass murder event.
The plot of Mr. Mercedes is not all that original, but it's a chilling, fast-reading work narrated in the author's usual sprawling, colloquial, "Big Mac and fries" style. Another familiar King touch is the joining of an oddball team of allies to stop an evil enemy. King has always excelled at the creation of offbeat characters. The most interesting one here turns out to be Holly Gibney, a middle-aged child-woman with mental stability issues, who nearly takes over the last part of the novel.
Stephen King is at his best in his Horror fiction, but he has tried his hand at other types of fiction as well. Mr. Mercedes is the best of the handful of Crime novels he has done, and is much more satisfying than last year's slow, tepid Joyland.
BEACH RATING: 3 Palm Trees