By Brett Sanders
Stephen King is known as the master of horror, and this statement holds all sorts of truth. The writer, now approaching his late 60s, is the author of over 50 novels and dozens of short stories. With standout works including “The Shining,” “Pet Sematary” and “Under the Dome,” one may classify him as an expert on supernatural storytelling. It comes as a surprise, then, that Mr. King’s latest novel, “Mr. Mercedes,” is a more realistic crime thriller.
“Mr. Mercedes” delivers a suspenseful ride of good and evil, showing that King truly is the master of any type of horror, whether it be supernatural or psychological. The story focuses on the lives of Brady — a killer, and Bill — a retired detective. After killing eight people and wounding many others by driving a stolen Mercedes into a job fair, Brady taunts Bill with letters and seeks to hurt the people who matter most to him. What pursues is Bill’s chase to find Brady before he commits another heinous act.
A compelling aspect of the novel is how the reader gets to look into the mind of the chaotic killer. The notes that Brady writes to Bill are fully included within the text, directly putting the reader in the protagonist’s shoes. The reader gets a real and complete sense of how the killer is thinking with respect to how he became who he is.
The tone of the novel corresponds to present day. Taking place shortly after the worst of the 2007-2009 recession, the economic content of the writing shows the horrors in the world besides those of murder. The first page includes stories of the people waiting in line at the job fair that is soon to be turned into a crime scene.
People began camping out the night before the job fair opened, eager to be the first to put their résumés in the hands of a potential employer. One of the characters described is a woman who brings her infant child to wait with her because she doesn’t have the funds to hire a babysitter for the night. The way King touches upon these morose economic conditions makes the ultimate story more realistic than ever.
And the novel is absolutely realistic. Unlike past works, everything in this book has the potential to happen. No ghosts or superficial creatures are involved in the story. It is simply a mass murderer who is obsessed to kill again.
The one fault in the novel is the ending. The closing pages are not bad in any sense, but some may describe them as being rushed. It is a let down, but not a big one. The great storytelling makes up for the underwhelming ending.
King’s novels are always a pleasure to read. Although not recommended for the squeamish, “Mr. Mercedes” takes readers on an intense, fun ride that embraces the chilling horrors of making the fiction feel like nonfiction.