Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stephen King Hits Some Car Trouble in 'Mr. Mercedes'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stephen King Hits Some Car Trouble in 'Mr. Mercedes'

Article excerpt

For fans of Stephen King, a quick warning: Despite his latest novel's title, "Mr. Mercedes," there are no sentient vehicles hellbent on destruction anywhere to be found, a la his earlier works "Christine" and "From a Buick 8."

Instead, we're greeted with a departure from his supernatural themes and given a straightforward thriller that aims for a middle ground between the novels of Thomas Harris and the television show "24." Unfortunately, despite its full-tilt pace, "Mr. Mercedes" ends up being a rather forgettable imitation of both.

The novel opens with a bang as job-seekers wait in line for a job fair at a local stadium. At dawn, a gray Mercedes appears and lunges into the crowd, killing eight (including a mother and her infant) and wounding 15. The car is found later that day, but the killer is gone.

A year later, one of the detectives assigned to the case, K. William Hodges, is retired and tormented by his failure to catch the man dubbed the "Mercedes Killer." Hodges receives a typed letter from someone claiming to be the Mercedes Killer, who revels in the terror the murders caused and gleefully taunts Hodges for his failure to catch the perpetrator. He encourages Hodges to consider suicide.

Predictably, Hodges responds to the letter by deciding to catch the killer and solve the case. From there, the book dips into familiar thriller territory by introducing the killer himself, an amalgamation of "Psycho's" Norman Bates and "American Psycho's" Patrick Bateman who works as an ice cream man and computer repairman.

Of course, the killer also has dark family secrets, a bank of encrypted computers in his basement, and the need to kill again. What follows is a fast-paced cat-and-mouse game between Hodges, the motley group of unlikely heroes that he assembles, and the Mercedes Killer. The retired detective and his allies race against time to figure out the culprit's next target before a larger tragedy can occur.

"Mr. Mercedes" churns along at high speed, which is fitting for a novel of this type - the book is divided into short, action-packed chapters that alternate between the heroes and the villain, so that the reader is never entirely sure what's coming next. …

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