Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #1) by Stephen King
Original 2015 Review:
I'm trying to think of
another Stephen King book that doesn't have a supernatural element to it
and it's hard - Delores Claiborne and Gerald's Game I guess. I spent
the majority of my time reading this one expecting an alternate
dimension to appear or a crazy ghost, but nothing did. And it was
refreshing. I do love King's supernatural stories - even when they stray
into the nonsensical, but it was a treat to have our bad guys just be
Our main character is Bill Hodges, a retired cop, and as I understand it I have to get comfortable with him because he's around for at least two more books. Bill is a senior citizen; he is not an addict and he doesn't have a temper problem. He's very different from King's other protagonists. I like him. I've heard you shouldn't base your opinion of a book on whether or not you like the main character, but if I've gotta hang out with this guy for two more books, I need to like him. Otherwise, why am I here?
But then we have our badguy, Mr. Mercedes, Brady Hartsfield, and he could not be more different from Mr. Hodges. I like to imagine that King had to take a shower after writing each of his chapters - I know I wanted to. Brady is awful in every sense of the word, but a testament to the talent of King. King switches from the comforting point of view of Bill to the disgusting, hate-filled narrative of Brady with ease. Brady is not only a mass-murderer, but he hates children, other races, women, and himself in equal measure. I think he even hates his mother as much as he craves her. Despite being so awful, I found him a very realistic and compelling bad guy - something the cartoon baddies *ahem Ramsay Bolton* of the Game of Thrones TV show could learn from.
Another gem of the story was Brady's messed up relationship with his mother. I think King did an excellent job of showing how abuse can mess up a person without using it to try and excuse Brady's behaviour. His mother didn't help matters, but it's clear that there was something fundamentally wrong with Brady from the start. Living in their messed up world actually brought me to tears at one point and forced me to take a break from the book because their cruelty was so stark and real.
As much as I enjoyed this book and am ever impressed by King's talent, recommending this one comes with a caveat. It's not an easy one to stomach. Horrible things happen and while the Brady chapters are realistic and well-written, there is a lot of hatred all over the page and it can be hard to get through.
I'm glad I took yet another break from my King in order to read this one (Firestarter is just not that compelling, y'all). I am looking forward to getting my hands on Finders Keepers and spending a couple more books with Mr. Hodges.