An old popular radio show used to ask listeners who knows what
evil lurks in the hearts of men. I think the answer back then was The
Shadow. I'm pretty sure in the 21st century it would be Maine's own
Stephen King. The monarch of horror can entice us to look beneath the
veneer of polite society, to see the malice, the lust, the downright
nastiness, that can lurk just below the surface, and consider
ourselves well entertained in the process. In the Stephen King novel
world there are no purer than the driven snow good guys and black hat
wearing, mustache twirling, villains. Both protagonist and antagonist
have elements of good and evil. This is sometimes what's most scary
about his work. A prime example of this is Mr. Mercedes.
Brady Hartfield, the product of a very disturbed and disturbing
childhood, is the sole caretaker of his seriously alcoholic mother.
He not only must bring in the bacon, but fry it, iron his uniforms,
clean... Mommy Dearest is usually only capable of shambling to pour
herself another drink. He pieces together their subsistance through
two jobs he dislikes: working for a discount electronics company and
driving an ice cream truck.
There is one night he really comes alive. He steals a Mercedes
and uses it as a weapon of mass destruction, driving it full speed
ahead into a crowd of people desperately waiting for a job fair,
killing eight and injuring many others. Then he uses the Internet to
guilt the owner of the Mercedes into taking her life. Now he's going
after Bill Hodges, the retired detective who failed to catch him,
hoping for the same result.
Only his plan backfires. Hodges has been sitting around,
watching tv, toying with his father's gun, getting ready for what he
considers inevitable. A lengthy and rambling letter from Hartfield,
meant to entice him to pull the trigger, actually gives him a reason
to live. He's going to catch Mr. Mercedes, even though it may involve
breaking quite a few laws, before he strikes again.
As each taunts and strives to outmaneuver the other, it is very
much like a very high stakes chess game with a few thousand lives
hanging in the balance. Mr. Mercedes is a great summer read for
lovers of suspense seasoned with insight into the darker sides of the
On a personal note, I hadn't planned on reading Mr. Mercedes. Then it
was the August choice for my book club. I'd passed on the last few so
I thought, what the heck.
A great big shout out goes out to all the book clubs rocking
functional literacy liberally seasoned with friendship.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod