Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Published in 2014: A new twist for King
Stephen King has a way of writing about the mundane and the extraordinary, juxtaposing the two in a way that defies easy comparisons. In Mr. Mercedes, published in 2014, King enters the field of the hard-boiled detective novel, while both bowing to the past and updating the genre. In this book, King pits a retired, bored (almost to death) detective and a psychopathic young man, which America seems to produce far too often in recent times. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt the crazy cause that we allow almost unlimited armaments to anyone who wants to buy some.)

It’s a cliché, but I can’t help saying that King is a master storyteller. He draws in the reader by alternating between the twisted mind and world of a killer and more normal folks. I don’t know how accurate his portrait of a warped, young American male is compared to actual deviants of this type, but it sure seems real. And he creates ordinary, mostly good people who work to stop these evil deeds and restore some justice to the world. The main character, Bill Hodges, the retired cop, is a good, if flawed guy, who, like many of us, displays his best when engaged in doing what he knows best. And as in many a good detective story, the persons helping the detective provide contrast and aids to the hero-detective, in this case a bright young black man, a slightly crazy forty-something woman, and an attractive divorcee. King brings all of them to life, as persons you might meet in the course of day. Not extraordinary, but capable, sometimes in surprising ways when called upon to rise to a challenge.

King also provides a clean, well-connected plot and brisk pacing that gains tension and moves to thriller status as the story progresses. No wonder this guy sells millions and millions of books (not to mention the screen versions that they spawn). In this novel King has created an outstanding addition to the American version of the detective story, one that will certainly support more appearances of Mr. Hodges and his friends. 

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