Mr Mercedes is an absolute beauty of a novel, full of all of those characteristics that have made King a global publishing phenomenon. It's a wonderfully realised story full of convincing and enjoyable characters and all the terrific writing his loyal readership have come to expect.
In audio version, a medium I generally use only in the car or when running, it prompted me on more than one occasion to take the long way home from the office or to run a kilometre further, just to be able to listen to a little more. A brilliant performance from veteran actor and narrator Will Patton, who in particular captured the tone of Retired Detective Bill Hodges to perfection, enhanced the experience but the real star here was King's peerless story-telling ability.
Right from the off, this book delivers. In the opening scene we are introduced to job-seekers queueing in the damp pre-dawn mist for a shot at a minimum-wage job in the recession-struck Midwest. With all of his customary ruthlessness King brings these poor souls into our lives only to wipe them out just a few minutes later as a large Mercedes saloon car with an unknown driver at the wheel kills eight and injures a dozen or so more. Even in these few pages he creates a sense of time and place that anchors the book.
This is no Christine, however, as this car has a driver, revealed early on as technology store employee Brady Hartsfield, who a year on from his crime begins to taunt the retired detective who could not track him down. But rather than provoke the lonely, bored Bill Hodges to suicide, as Hartsfield hopes, he offers him a new lease of life as the detective resumes the hunt.
Mr Mercedes is told from the viewpoints of these adversaries, gradually revealing their stories as Hodges closes in on his quarry. It's a hugely satisfying chase. Hodges is joined in his quest by two unlikely sidekicks: the highly intelligent kid who cuts his lawn and the socially inept cousin of another woman with an interest in finding the Mercedes killer. In parallel, we are given a striking portrait of a killer who has become uncoupled from reality and feels compelled to engage Hodges as a direct opponent.
It is delivered with the idiomatic flourish that marks out all of King's work - and which I love - as well as the master storyteller's art of giving the reader just enough bait for the hook to be taken, while holding back enough secrets to be able to ratchet up the tension.
I loved this book, which joins Duma Key and The Stand as my favourites from King and I'm thrilled to see from a letter from him stating that this is the beginning of a trilogy "concerning Bill Hodges, his friends... and his enemies". I've always encouraged those who have resisted reading King because of the "horror thing" to give him a go. He's a brilliant writer with tremendous range and this is another considerable feather in his cap.