5 stars out of 5
Nothing beats knowing within the first few pages that you're going to enjoy a book from start to finish. That pretty much sums up every book by Stephen King I've ever read, and this one is no exception. It starts when a car plows into a crowd of unemployed folks who are lined up to get into a job fair - killing eight, including a mother and baby, and seriously injuring a number of others. Months later, the perpetrator hasn't been found and the woman whose Mercedes was stolen and used to commit the horrendous drive-through commits suicide - presumably because she is consumed with guilt for leaving her car unlocked and the key inside.
Then, retired police officer Bill Hodges gets a letter from someone who claims to have been the driver and threatens to do something even worse. Hodges, who finds retirement boring and unproductive, rises to the challenge of finding the culprit, with more than a little help from his 17-year old neighbor and the sister of the woman whose car was stolen and driven through the crowd.
Of course, it's quite a chase that leads to dead ends and, not insignificantly, dead people. Whether Hodges and his under-the-table crew will identify and stop the killer before something awful happens kept me on the edge of my recliner for the duration.
In between the action is some fun stuff: The lyrics for the song "Kisses on the Midway" are by King and Shooter Jennings, the child of country music stars Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter (for those who don't know, King has some serious music chops, from playing in a rock band to collaborating on music videos and plays with heavyweights like Michael Jackson and John Mellencamp). And, King manages to get in a few zingers here and there as well; the perp's note to detectives, for instance, "...may not be high-class literature, but his writing is a lot better than the dialogue in shows like NCIS or Bones."
I must point out, though, that those who are expecting spooky stuff, supernatural critters that go bump in the night or cars that drive themselves will be disappointed. In fact, this one is an almost straightforward police procedural that is, dare I say, a bit predictable despite plenty of action and angst. But it's still classic King, and by golly, that's plenty good enough for me.
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Scribner, June 2014); 448 pp.