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Review: "Mr. Mercedes," by Stephen King

My many reviews of Stephen King books continues with this nicely wrought thriller about a seriously sick mass murderer. In the last decade it appears that when Mr. King sticks to a smaller, tighter topic he delivers full bore. This story focuses on a retired cop who has lost the zest for life and come afloat, contemplating suicide, until he re-connects with a cold case that he has failed to solve. This gives him momentum and drive and, ultimately, a reason to live. There is a nasty villain who is really as perverse as any in the long array of King bad boys. Remember, this is more of a cop /chase / thriller and not really a horror novel, although I have to say that it is certainly horrible enough. There are indiscretions and assumptions that could pull this book apart, but I’ll forgive King this time. A late 40’s semi heroine who has a host of psychological conditions (OCD, agoraphobic, bi-polar), you name it, she has it, seems quite cured by her participation in solving the murder. Another character, a young black teenager, is painted as both an articulate, intelligent young man, who also falls back into blackface parody, that feels a bit unsettling. Another personal difficulty that I have is that in an era when mass shootings occur with terrible regularity, it just feels incredibly uncomfortable that King has chosen a sick, sexually disturbed, abused person as the evil point man in this story. I support King’s daring in choosing a subject that is so close to the communal bone, but if you stop to think about this at all while you’re reading, it feels very, very bad. It’s horror at its most basic, but (spoiler alert) once again, most of the good guys live. It feels a bit like he wants to reward the reader for hanging tough with him. If he really wants to take us to the darkest places, this isn’t the ride. But this kind of story certainly sells.

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