Millennium Post

That friendly neighbourhood killer

A master story teller seldom goes wrong. While Stephen King does not exactly hit bulls eye with Mr Mercedes, it is, without a sliver of doubt, one of the best crime thrillers I have read recently. Of course, I must mention, Robert Gailbraith was the other book I was reading while I ploughed through Mr Mercedes.

Mr Mercedes is a step towards the ‘normal’ and a good few steps away from the eerie magic of The Shining, The Green Mile, Dreamcatcher and the list goes on. King is known for his horror, thriller and sci-fi brillaince and with respect to that, Mr Mercedes almost seems tame and regular. But don’t make that mistake. Don’t give this book a miss.

The story steps on the accelerator in 2009 when a grey Mercedes ploughed through a crowd of unemployed people waiting outside the auditorium at a jobs’ fair killing and maiming a fair share.

The Mercedes was stolen from Olivia Trelawney and abandoned after the incident with a clown mask in the car. The police never managed to nab the thief and the murderer and Mrs Trelawney eventually commits suicide.

This Mercedes case is one of the few rare cases homicide detective Bill Hodges fails to close in his career. Retired and deliriously bored, close to dumping a bullet into his own head, Hodges has very little to look forward to. Then he gets a letter from the Mercedes Killer.

‘Retired police have an extremely high suicide rate!! In most cases, the cops who do this sad thing have no close family members who might see the Warning Signs...What kind of life do you have now that the “thrill of the hunt” is behind you? Are you watching a lot of TV? Probably. Are you drinking more? Possibly. Do the hours go by more slowly because your life is now so empty? Are you suffering from insomnia....But I fear that might be the case! I wouldn’t want you to start thinking about your gun. But you are thinking of it, aren’t you? I would like to close with one final thought from “the one that got away”.  The thought is: FUCK YOU, LOSER.’

I could well tell you who the letter is from and entirely spoil it all, but then you of course won’t pick the book up. Let’s be honest. Mr Mercedes is a straight up crime thriller where a retired detective kicks his Lay-Z-Boy out and jumps back in to action.

‘His last thought before he goes under is how Mr Mercedes’s poison-pen letter finished up. Mr Mercedes wants him to commit suicide. Hodges wonders what he would think if he knew he had given this particular ex-Knight of the Badge and Gun a reason to live, instead. At least for a while.’

He is aided in his chase by some very interesting characters - Janey Patterson, Oliver Trelawney’s sister;  Jerome Robinson, Hodges’ neighbour and ‘hired boy’ who does his lawn and Holly Gibney - Janey and Olivia’s cousin.

When we say straight-up, we mean that there is no signature King’s supernatural or science fiction involved.

However, what Mr Mercedes has is a riveting story line and some incredible characters. If you can keep your hankering for the quintessential King at bay, Mr Mercedes is hands down one of the best detective stories of late. You will sympathise with the characters and after a while actually wish you could step in and shoot the killer yourself.

The figure of the Mercedes Killer is as creepy as it is incredible. Every move, every thought will give you the shudders. His calculations are spot in. He does not want to disappear in to oblivion after his infamous stint as ‘Mr Mercedes’ and to make his mark he wants to do more. For starters he hunts down Olivia again and haunts her till she kills herself out of guilt.

He then goes after Bill Hodges and hopes to play the guilt card again. Unfortunately for him, fortunately for us - he fails. His next big move is another mass murder so as the world has a bigger story to remember him by. Hodges, with is motley crew, must stop this madman.

Hodges plays the killer like a pro and the killer has to play along, he has to - his reputation must precede him. And King weaves all this out like magic. Not once will you feel distracted from Mr Mercedes.

King creates his rock solid characters that makes you hang on to this book till the end. You want them to nab the killer and you will not want Mr Mercedes to recover. You will want him dead. I had to keep myself from cheering when justice prevails - cheering randomly in the middle of the Delhi metro is a tad absurd.

What will give you the creeps is the character of the killer. He is so scarily regular in real life that you will do a double-take the next time you cross paths with a ‘very friendly’ ice-cream vendor or a tele-caller/computer repair guy. Deep down in his basement and his heart, Mr Mercedes is a deranged monster.

Circumstances that push Mr Mercedes to become who he is are also very, very disturbing. For a second you will almost be convinced to blame his circumstances and not him. But unfortunately for this guy, the hate and anger piles up way too high. Your life could be terrible, but murdering innocents doesn’t quite make it bearable. Crime never really pays.

Two crime thrillers back to back and both brilliantly different from each other. Bill Hodges and Cormoran Strike. If I pit characters against each other - Cormoran Strike wins it for me. But when it comes to story, while Gailbraith scores with his (her) prose, King hits the nail on the head with the thrill. You’ll be stupid to not read this one.

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