Mr. Mercedes Final Thoughts
Mr. Mercedes Journal #5
There's spoilers here, so if you read on, it's your choice.
If finished reading Mr. Mercedes the other day. I liked it a lot. And, I'm ready for the ghosts, vampires, monsters and evil clowns to come back to the Stephen King universe. That is to say, the book is better than most detective stories; but it's not the same as an old car that is possessed by the spirit of her former owner. Mr. Mercedes is a good read, but it's not delicious.
The book held me in suspense all the way to the end. It did not leave me asking for more.
The Clunky Parts:
Sometimes it seems like clues come a little too easily for our main characters. It's a lot of, "oh, how lucky we are -- another clue, right in time to keep both trains ticking along at the right pace to have a big blow out at just the right spot." It feels plotted. Also, the ending, frankly, feels contrived. Hodges walks away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, after endangering the entire city?
King has said you always have to deal with the problem, "Why not just call the police?" Well, Hodges at one point decides to call the police, but they are all so amazingly excited about another turn of events, he chooses not to tell them what he knows because they won't be focused. This comes across as pretty thin, plot wise. Makes police seem cartoonish and single minded. Goodness, they couldn't possibly think of two cases at once, could they?
I also think that King misses just how much respect us common people will give a police badge. Twice in the novel King portrays people arguing with Hodges after he shows them his badge. First it's the nosy neighbor. He forces the group to explain who each of them are and questions them about why they are driving what they are driving and so on. But when you meet a police officer and company, you really don't go about questioning everyone there. You usually play it kind of safe around people who carry a badge.
Further, King has Hodges run in to a custodian at the final countdown. There is an argument that is simply unbelievable; and this isn't the moment things need to get unbelievable! So a custodian is arguing with a man with a police badge? Really?
What Makes The Novel Work:
Characters. I love the characters in Mr. Mercedes. And for them, I'll be back! The trio is a blast. Awkward, feisty -- they have the chemistry of the original Star Wars cast as they banter. Hodges is the most cardboard of the three; a burned out cop who comes back to deal with one last, open case.
King gives his main characters room, space and permission to grow and change as the novel progresses. Once mousy, quiet and timid Holly becomes more engaging as she gets familiar and comfortable with the other characters. By the novel's end, she's changed/progressed dramatically.
Jerome, an intelligent young black man who likes to play with stereotypes falls for Holly. Is this totally believable? Nope. But I like it, and sometimes the nice thing about a novel is the writer gives us what we want, not what would really happen.
But what really works is the killer himself. There is an interesting relationship between Brady and his mommy. Brady could have stepped right out of Psycho. The scary parts of Mr. Mercedes is when King takes us inside Mr. Mercedes head. Not a fun place to be because the reader is able to identify with someone they don't want to identify with!
The letter Mr. Mercedes wrote to detective Hodges was great! I mean, it was totally believable that a crazy guy wrote this. And it gets under your skin.
King has never quite taken us inside the mind of a killer the way he does with Brady Hartsfield’s; but he came close with Annie Wilkes. Annie acted on impulse, while Brady plots and plans his next move. Annie wasn't as self aware as Brady.
My final word: I liked it. Now give us a haunted cruise ship or something.
In general this is not a genre I would read much; so it was a joy to have King introduce me to something new. But I'm ready now for some creepy cats and hungry clowns.
Of course, right after finishing Mr. Mercedes, I read "In The Tall Grass." That fit the bill for something creepy!