Bill Hodges is a retired cop who left very few cases unfinished, the Mercedes Killer being one of the most notorious. Said killer is exactly what he sounds like: a guy who stole a Mercedes and ran over a crowd of people. One day, Bill gets a letter from someone claiming to be the killer. So of course, the game is on.
I was not excited for this one. It sounded like a by-the-numbers thriller, and much as I love Stephen King, I wasn’t convinced we needed one of those with his name stamped on it. Thankfully, I was wrong. If nothing else, his usual panache with characters plays a big role in making this more, particularly where the killer is concerned.
I don’t think this is much of a spoiler as it’s revealed early on, but the killer has his own POV chapters. We know who he is, and we get a glimpse into why he’s like this. For me, this was one of the book’s strongest points. It felt very true to life and well-crafted. I never once felt like I was reading some thriller writer’s idea of a serial killer but rather someone who, terrifyingly, could have existed and committed these crimes.
As far as our heroes, Jerome and Holly were the most engaging for me, emphasis on Holly. Bill had his good points, but King was obviously going with a pseudo-sleuth vibe in some ways, and it didn’t always ring true. Still when I compare it to other mystery/detective protagonists, Bill wins out more than most for having the most personality. That’s something that sets this novel apart: the fact that the characters have meat to them. In this genre, that’s not easy to find.
I enjoyed the story itself, as it took some interesting turns. It kept me reading until I finished it in no time flat. I definitely won’t be giving anything away, because it is part of the fun. It’s been a while since I’ve seen King write a story this tightly woven, and it’s good to see he can be concise when it’s called for.
It’s been said by the man himself that this is the beginning of a trilogy. Not to sound contrary when I loved this book, but I’m still not sure it deserves to be a trilogy. I look forward to him proving me wrong again.