Before I posted my review on Stephen King’s latest novel Mr Mercedes there were over 800 reviews. However, Amazon informed me that my review assisted someone to purchase the novel.
With Joyland Stephen King showed that he can write a dramatic and moving crime story. With Mr Mercedes he has done it again, even better. This is a darker novel. Brady Hartfield is confrontingly dreadful and there are scenes here which will shock many readers. But because this is Stephen King we are given much more than (non-supernatural) horror. What stood out for me was King’s characterisation. The main protagonist, retired detective Bill Hodges, is complex, sympathetic and flawed. There is a supporting cast, apart from Brady, who are interesting people, from his teenage neighbour Jerome whose courage and loyalty is crucial in the acceleration of tension as the novel progresses; to Holly, damaged and frail, but quite extraordinary. In her case King sketches in some back story to deepen and enrichen the character and to enhance our shifting responses to her.
King’s concern with social justice is also significant. We meet the victims of Brady’s mass murder before it happens. These are ordinary people struggling to make ends meet in a society that is indifferent to their needs, except when they can be exploited. Social disintegration and isolation are seen throughout the novel. The juxtaposition with those who care about others is stark. Like Dickens, King uses his society as not just a setting for the story but a crucial aspect of his writing’s moral force.
Impeccably plotted, filled with memorable characters and events, Mr Mercedes is an emotional, dramatic read: