Genre: hard-boiled detective/mystery
Length: 436 pages
Setting: a big city (it felt like California, but I’m not sure it was explicitly stated), 1987
Summary: Short version: Ex-detective has to find the mass murder before he kills again
Long version: Bill Hodges has just retired from the police force. He was a pretty good detective, but now he’s bored. Things pick up when he receives a letter in the mail, taunting him about one of his unsolved cases. Brady Hartsfield is known as the Mercedes killer after driving his car into a queue of people lining up for a job fair. Now he’s trying to goad Hodges into suicide. Unfortunately for Brady, the letter prompts Hodges to take a new interest in life. He starts digging into the events of the Mercedes killings and finds some new details. He also gets involved with Janey, the sister of one of Brady’s victims. Brady explodes Hodges car, killing Janey instead of Hodges. That just focuses Hodges’ attention even more. Hodges is able to identify Brady with some assistance and knows he’s planning something big. The question is can they catch him before he detonates a bomb at a packed teeny-bopper concert.
Final thoughts: Quality Stephen King. I know he can write well. The trick is finding something that isn’t too scary, and this fit the bill. I enjoyed this more than you average mystery. That may be a function of the quality of the writing. It may also be because I enjoy a hard-boiled detective story more than just a random civilian trying to solve a mystery. That being said, I’m not sure I liked it enough to read the others in the series.
It was interesting how Brady totally misjudged Hodges. Brady sent his note to push Hodges over the edge so he’d finally shoot himself. Instead, it gave Hodges a new purpose in life. Now Hodges had something to focus his intellect on. Bonus, he picks up a girlfriend into the process. King did not shy away from showing a healthy sex life for an older couple, which isn’t something you see so often in visual media. There was a lot of tension at the end because I wasn’t sure they’d catch Brady before he set off his bomb. I could see King going either way with the story.
Title comes from: Brady killed a bunch of people with a Mercedes at the beginning so he was nicknamed the Mercedes Killer by the press.
Reading challenges fulfilled: book #56 for 2018 and a K in my Author Reading the Alphabet Challenge
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