The bottom line: In Mr. Mercedes, King has created one of the most unexpected, original and despicable villains in modern literature. And yes, it’s “literature.” The razor-sharp craftsmanship evident n the psychological war between the Mr. Mercedes and the man he dismisses as “the fat ex-cop” is beyond brilliant.
Just when we were sure that King couldn’t top his time-travel thriller 11/22/1963, he comes out with one of his most robust tales ever. In terms of sheer stakes, it’s easy to mistake this book as “small” by King’s standards (if you call running down down a handful of innocents waiting in a job line small). There’s no massive mysterious dome that suddenly appears over an entire town, no opportunity to save John F. Kennedy and change the course of history.
But Mr. Mercedes is anything but small. Both the book’s protagonist and its villain are themselves masterpieces. At every point in the book, we know exactly what they want and the things about their past, present and future that are driving them to get there. The genre of retired detectives coming back to solve one more case could be a genre unto itself, but we guarantee you’ve never read one like this.
In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.
In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.