This is the first book in a trilogy King’s written about retired cop Bill Hodges and the cases he finds himself involved in during his retirement. In this book, it’s a case that Hodges didn’t solve that haunts him, of course. In this case, it’s a mysterious killer known as Mr. Mercedes because that’s what he drove into a crowd of people, killing eight and injuring countless others. The story isn’t anything new. Hodges gets a mocking letter from the killer and it whets his appetite to get back into the detective game. As the book progresses, he finds himself either blessed or saddled with a couple of “helpers” on his quest and it becomes a race against time to stop the killer before he has the chance to pull off an even more bloody crime. It’s a quite solid mystery thriller and King writes here in a very terse, sort of hard-boiled prose style. The last King book I read was Bag of Bones and it was incredibly beautifully written, very lyrical and evocative. But it was in the voice of a writer; this one’s about a meat & potatoes retired cop. I like that King can change his voice so drastically, but the simple prose does remove one of King’s weapons; without the more complicated and interesting prose, the book, which is very slow, starts to drag a bit in the middle, particularly with the addition of a basically unnecessary love story. The book didn’t need to be over 450 pages, I don’t think, but, for the most part I didn’t mind. This isn’t a book for horror junkies. It’s never scary. The characterization of the killer, Brady Hartsfield, is extremely well done, however, and the time we spend with him during the book is definitely creepy and disturbing. In the end, I really, really liked this book and will definitely be continuing with the next one in the trilogy, Finders Keepers. It’s well-plotted, the villain is unsettling in just the right amount and the character dynamics between the three main detective characters works really well. It was a real page-turner most of the time, particularly in the last hundred pages or so when the book became almost impossible to put down. 3 ½ stars.
tl;dr – a creepy, disturbing villain and well-characterized detectivesmake this mystery-thriller from King entertaining and compelling; the book drags a bit in the middle, but not all that much. 3 ½ stars.