Hell on wheels

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First Posted: 5/26/2014

Most of us go through life having known at least one, if not more of these people. In fact, whether we want to admit it or not, we may even be one of them — those who overcompensate. Whether feeling the desire to possess the most luxurious Mercedes-Benz in order to fill a void or attempt to be perceived as genuine in lieu of abhorrent behavior, all truths eventually surface.

In Stephen King’s forthcoming novel, “Mr. Mercedes,” readers come to know what exists behind the curtain as they are shown the face of good and evil. One morning, in the midst of a busy job fair, a Mercedes plows into a crowd of optimistic job seekers. There are dead and wounded nearly everywhere in sight. Perplexed as to the motive behind the assailant — now named the Mercedes Killer — authorities are steadfast in their search, hoping to seek justice. Unfortunately, without proper identification and clues leading to the suspect, the case goes cold.

A year later, retired detective Bill Hodges receives a letter from the most unlikely of people — the Mercedes Killer. Therein, the killer details his actions and notes his plans for an encore, requesting Bill (not unlike the Joker to Batman) to find him or live with blood on his hands. From an outside perspective, readers have already been given the true identity of the Mercedes Killer, antagonist Brady Hartfield. We see Brady’s dull life come alive only through his peculiar fascination with death.

However, what seems to be a preoccupation with all things macabre quickly accelerates from obsessive to psychopathic as recognized by Brady’s blood lust: “I have to tell you how much fun it was. (I’m being honest here) When I ‘put the pedal to the metal’ and drove poor Mrs. Olivia Trelawney’s Mercedes at the crowd of people, I had the biggest ‘hard-on’ of my life! And was my heart beating 200 a minute! ‘Hope to tell ya!’”

Reminiscent of both Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” King so, too, offers up a plot of crazed lunatics with a side of unlikely avengers. However, while the plot itself diverges from both films, it is interesting to note that Tarantino is acknowledged within the work. Brady is found “slapping yellow 50% OFF stickers on old Quentin Tarantino movies.” Whether the former was intentional or not, King also draws inspiration within the novel by showcasing his skills of recurrence from previous works.

Unlike King’s earlier novels employing psychological horror, “Mr. Mercedes” is a hard crime story led by a flawed but endearing hero, Bill, with support from his teenage neighbor, Jerome. Their staunch adversaries — Brady and his mother, Deborah — serve as the deeply disturbed, but necessary elements that balance the fight between good and evil. The novel demonstrates that the best story leaves the reader uncertain until the very end.

‘Mr. Mercedes’ by Stephen King Rating: W W W W