Mr. Mercedes

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Mr. Mercedes
First edition cover
AuthorStephen King
SeriesBill Hodges Trilogy
GenreCrime fiction
PublishedJune 3, 2014 (Scribner)
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
Followed byFinders Keepers 

Mr. Mercedes is a crime novel by American writer Stephen King. It is his 51st novel and the 44th published under his own name. He calls it his first hard-boiled detective book. It was published on June 3, 2014.[1] On June 10, 2014 the author described Mr. Mercedes on Twitter as the first volume of a projected trilogy; it was followed in June 2015 by Finders Keepers, the first draft of which was finished around the time Mr. Mercedes was published,[2][3] and in June 2016 by End of Watch.

The novel won the 2015 Edgar Award for Best Novel from the Mystery Writers of America[4] and Goodreads Choice Awards for 2014 in the "Mystery and Thriller" category.[5]

Background information[edit]

During his Chancellor's Speaker Series talk at University of Massachusetts Lowell on December 7, 2012, King indicated that he was writing a crime novel about a retired policeman being taunted by a murderer. With a working title Mr. Mercedes and inspired by a true event about a woman driving her car into a McDonald's restaurant, it was originally meant to be a short story just a few pages long.[6] In an interview with Parade, published May 26, 2013, King confirmed that the novel was "more or less" completed.[7] Describing the novel for an interview with USA Today, published on September 18, 2013, King said that while it was started prior to the Boston Marathon bombings, Mr. Mercedes involves a terrorist plot which is "too creepily close for comfort".[8] An excerpt was published in the May 16, 2014 issue of Entertainment Weekly.[9]


Many unemployed people are standing a queue for a job fair when a Mercedes car plows into the crowd, killing eight people and severely injuring many.

Bill Hodges, a recently retired detective from the local police department, receives a letter from an individual claiming to be the person responsible for the job fair incident; referring to himself as "Mr. Mercedes".

Hodges is divorced, lonely and fed up with his life, occasionally contemplating suicide. The Mr. Mercedes incident had taken place at the end of Hodges' career and was still unresolved when he retired. Mr. Mercedes knows details of the murder and also mentions Olivia Trelawney, from whom he had stolen the Mercedes. Olivia had committed suicide soon after the massacre, out of guilt. Hodges continues to investigate the case instead of turning the letter over to his former police colleague, Pete Huntley.

Brady Hartsfield, who is revealed to be Mr. Mercedes, is an emotionally disturbed psychopath in his late-twenties who lost his father when he was eight years old. When he was a young boy, he killed his mentally handicapped brother at his mother's prompting. He now lives and has an incestuous relationship with his alcoholic mother and works in an electronics shop and as an ice cream seller. Riding in an ice cream truck, his second job enables him to observe Hodges and his neighbors; amongst them is seventeen-year-old Jerome Robinson, who does a variety of chores for Hodges.

During his research about the wealthy Olivia Trelawney, Hodges meets her sister Janey, who hires him to investigate Olivia's suicide and the theft of the Mercedes. Shortly after Hodges begins to work for Janey, the two begin dating. Hodges finds out, with the help of bright, computer savvy Jerome, how Mr. Mercedes stole the car and then drove Olivia (whom he made contact with through his job at the electronics shop) to suicide by leaving eerie sound files on her computer that were set to go off at unpredictable intervals, which worked on her feelings of guilt. Olivia, when hearing these sounds, believed them to be the ghosts of the victims of the job fair massacre. At the funeral of Janey and Olivia's recently deceased mother, Hodges meets Janey's unpleasant relatives, amongst them Janey's emotionally unstable cousin Holly. After the funeral, Mr. Mercedes blows up Hodges' car, not realizing that Hodges wasn't in it. However, Janey was inside and is killed in the explosion. Hodges feels remorse, and becomes even more eager to solve the case without the help of the police. Holly joins Hodges and Jerome in the investigation.

Hartsfield accidentally kills his mother with poisoned hamburger meat which he had prepared for Jerome's dog. With her rotting body in their house, he plans to kill himself by blowing himself up at a giant concert for young girls by feigning the need for a wheelchair and utilizing explosives hidden inside the wheelchair. Jerome, Hodges, and Holly manage to uncover Hartsfield's real identity and search his computer hard drives. They eventually deduce that Hartsfield's target is the concert and the trio rush to the concert venue to stop him. Hodges begins to suffer from a heart attack and is unable to venture into the concert with Holly and Jerome, but urges them to press on. Holly locates Hartsfield and delivers several harsh blows to his head using Hodges' "Happy Slapper" – a sock filled with ball bearings. Hartsfield is left bleeding and unconscious.

Hodges (who had been saved by concert staff), Holly, and Jerome have a picnic to discuss the recently transpired events. Hodges has learned that he will not be criminally charged for his actions regarding the Hartsfield investigation. They have received a medal from the city, congratulating them on their work. Hartsfield wakes up in the hospital, asking for his mother.

Main characters[edit]

  • Kermit William 'Bill' Hodges – The protagonist and a retired detective.
  • Brady Hartsfield – The main antagonist and Mr. Mercedes.
  • Jerome Robinson – Hodges' hired help, and his friend. He's a bright, computer-savvy teenager.
  • Janey Patterson – Olivia Trelawney's sister. She encourages Hodges to investigate Mr Mercedes, and later falls in love with him.
  • Holly Gibney – Janey's cousin and later on, Hodges's partner in investigation.
  • Peter 'Pete' Huntley – Hodges' former partner.
  • Deborah Ann Hartsfield – Brady's alcoholic mother.
  • Elizabeth Wharton – Olivia and Janey's elderly mother.
  • Olivia Trelawney – The rich woman to whom the Mercedes Benz belonged.


Mr. Mercedes received positive reviews, with many critics responding well to the book being different from King's "standard horror stories" and being a "compelling crime novel."

Michael Marshall Smith of The Guardian noted the novel "is firmly positioned in suspense-thriller territory and the non-supernatural world – somewhere King evidently feels increasingly at home. … At its heart, Mr Mercedes is a traditional cat-and-mouse story about a psychopathic killer and the renegade cop who makes it his mission to bring him down." Considering three levels of evaluation – quality per se, expectations of King's "readers who return for his distinctively unstoppable storytelling engine, his particular and hugely dependable voice", and rules of "whichever genre" King increasingly departs to, he sums up: "Good book? Hell, yes. Good Stephen King book? Absolutely."[10] Brian Truitt of USA Today gave the novel 3 and 1/2 stars: "With an accidental gumshoe and a freaky serial killer, … Mr. Mercedes takes the old detective genre in an excellent, modern direction". He commended "a fascinating look at what makes a serial killer in a post-9/11 context", adding that King also "really succeeds with Hodges' companions".[11] Sheryll Connelly of The New York Daily News stated the novel is "telling a story that could almost be characterized as sweet except of course for the sociopath on a bloody rampage. King will be King, and he’s never less than scary. Who in their right mind would want him to be?" and noted that this is one of his books where instead of it being "horrific, King expresses outright tenderness and it’s evident here."[12]

Tasha Robinson of The A.V. Club was more reserved, writing that the novel opens with its best moment and "sags significantly in the middle, but it barrels toward a memorable conclusion … his tense, propulsive, ultra-fast-paced climax here seems like it was written with the movie in mind". Her main complaint was "a collection of laughably creaky old tropes at the center … a halfhearted stop at Señor Lazy’s Bargain Cliché Bin … predictable King-isms … a cutout character following a well-worn path". But she praised the novel for being "unusual in its dedication to surprising readers" and found it "a major step up from his previous book, Doctor Sleep".[13]


In January 2015 it was announced that Mr. Mercedes would be turned into a limited television series, with David E. Kelley slated to write the project and Jack Bender as director. Kelley and Stephen King were announced as executive producers.[14]

As of May 2016, Stephen King said that the series had been "back-burnered." However, on May 26, 2016, David E. Kelley announced that the 10 episode series was still alive, confirming that it would air via AT&T U-verse, on its DirecTV channel Audience. In January 2017, it was announced the series was in production and would premiere August 9, 2017 on Audience.[15] The series stars Brendan Gleeson as Bill Hodges, while Brady Hartsfield is portrayed by Harry Treadaway (replacing Anton Yelchin, who died in June 2016, a few months before production started).


  1. ^ "Stephen King – Mr Mercedes release date and synopsis". December 11, 2013. Archived from the original on March 5, 2014. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  2. ^ King, Stephen (10 June 2014). "Stephen King @Stephen King". @Stephen King. Stephen King via twitter. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  3. ^ "Mr. Mercedes – Letter from Stephen & The Toll". Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  4. ^ "Mystery Writers on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  5. ^ "Best Mystery & Thriller 2014 — Goodreads Choice Awards". Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  6. ^ "A Conversation with Stephen King" Archived 2012-12-15 at the Wayback Machine. Chancellor's Speaker Series. University of Massachusetts Lowell. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  7. ^ Tucker, Ken (May 25, 2013). "A Rare Interview with Master Storyteller Stephen King". Parade. Retrieved May 26, 2013.
  8. ^ Minzesheimer, Bob (September 18, 2013). "After 36 years, King gives 'Shining' a new luster in sequel". USA Today. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
  9. ^ "Stephen King's 'Mr. Mercedes': Read an excerpt now". Entertainment Weekly's Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  10. ^ "Mr Mercedes by Stephen King review – a crime thriller from the horror master". the Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  11. ^ Truitt, Brian (June 2, 2014). "Stephen King in overdrive with killer 'Mr. Mercedes'". USA Today. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  12. ^ "Book review: Stephen King's new thriller 'Mr. Mercedes'". Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  13. ^ "Review: Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes repeatedly subverts expectations · Book Review · The A.V. Club". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  14. ^, via (2 July 2015). "'Game of Thrones' New Director Teases Season 6, Why He's Treating Show Like 'Lost'". Variety. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  15. ^ "'Mr. Mercedes' Sets Cast Led By Brendan Gleeson & Harry Treadaway". Deadline Hollywood. 30 January 2017.

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