Title: Mr. Mercedes
Author: Stephen King
Narrator: Will Patton
Audiobook Length: 14 hours, 22 minutes
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 3 June 2014
Bottom Line: Excellent crime fiction
“In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.
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.
Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.
Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.”
Thoughts: Mr. King is a master at making even his villains sympathetic. His stories, like Mr. Mercedes, are less about solving the mystery and more about understanding each character’s motivation. While the macabre dance between Bill and Brady is a major element of the story, getting insight into Brady’s mind is even more interesting and, perhaps, important. For Brady is not a total sociopath or even psychopath. His disregard for human life stems from mental disturbance caused by a less-than-nurturing childhood environment. He can and does feel emotion, which creates some gut-wrenching scenes regarding Brady’s personal connections. Mr. King’s take on the nature versus nurture debate creates a character in which it is all too easy for readers to wonder how things might be different had his childhood not been so traumatic.
While Brady is definitely a sympathetic character, he is still the bad guy in this scenario – something Mr. King never lets readers forget. For every insight into why Brady became the way he is, King also abruptly reminds readers just what harm Brady is capable of doing to others. In true King fashion, these scenes are gory, brutal in their violence, and still shocking no matter how one anticipates them. It is a no-holds-barred approach to storytelling that never gets old, especially when one of the characters’ hold on reality may be tenuous at best.
Some narrators get so involved in a story that their performance ends up overshadowing the words. Others manage to blend their performance with the words to create a spectacular audio experience. Will Patton chooses a road that lies in the middle of these two extremes. His performance is understated; he differentiates among the characters with voices and inflection without getting carried away. His narration provides window-dressing only; he lets Mr. King’s words tell the story rather than letting his performance do so. It makes for an impressive audiobook, albeit not the flashiest one a person could experience.
The only true surprise in Mr. Mercedes is just how Brady’s and Bill’s ultimate showdown will unfold, and that is perfectly acceptable as Mr. King’s latest novel focuses on the journey more than the end result. It is a journey to discover how a criminal is made, how preconceived perceptions can mask the truth, and how determining who we are occurs at all ages of life. With Mr. King’s signature style and careful attention to detail, Mr. Mercedes moves beyond a typical crime novel and becomes a study of the human mind. It is a story that will please both fans and first-time King readers.