Mr. Mercedes

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Mr. Mercedes
First edition cover
Author Stephen King
Country USA
Language English
Series Bill Hodges Trilogy
Genre Crime fiction
Published June 3, 2014 (Scribner)
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 436
ISBN 978-1-4767-5445-1
Followed by Finders Keepers

Mr. Mercedes is a novel by Stephen King. 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, to be followed in the first half of 2015 by Finders Keepers, the first draft of which was finished around the time Mr. Mercedes was published,[2][3] and End of Watch.

The novel won the 2015 Edgar Award for Best Novel from the Mystery Writers of America.[4]

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.[5] In an interview with Parade, published May 26, 2013, King confirmed that the novel was "more or less" completed.[6] 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".[7] An excerpt was published in the May 16, 2014 issue of Entertainment Weekly.[8]


The novel starts with a scene in which jobless people stand in line for a job fair, when a Mercedes rides into the crowd and kills eight people and injures many severely. Immediately after that, the protagonist is introduced, Bill Hodges, a former police detective retired for six months. He is divorced, lonely and fed up with his life, occasionally considering suicide. Suddenly he receives a letter signed by a "Mr. Mercedes" who claims to be the Mercedes killer. The 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; she committed suicide soon after the massacre. Hodges is intrigued and starts to investigate the case instead of turning the letter over to his former police colleague, Pete Huntley.

A new perspective in the novel opens with the introduction of Brady Hartsfield, the Mercedes killer. It is revealed that this emotionally disturbed man in his late twenties lost his father at age eight. 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 a van, this second job enables him to observe Hodges and Hodges' neighbors, among them seventeen-year-old Jerome Robinson, who does little 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 stealing of the Mercedes. They become a couple. 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 creepy 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 Mercedes Massacre. At the funeral of Janey and Olivia's ill mother, Hodges meets Janey's unpleasant relatives, among them Janey's emotionally unstable cousin Holly. After the funeral, Mr. Mercedes blows up Hodges' car, not realizing that Hodges wasn't in the car, Janey was. She is killed. Hodges feels remorse, but 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 a poisoned hamburger 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; the concert will be attended by Jerome's mother and little sister. Hodges, Jerome and Holly manage to uncover Brady's real identity and search his computer hard drives. As they suspect a different location to be Mr. Mercedes' target, they come late to the concert, but not too late. While Hodges has a heart attack and is taken to the hospital, Jerome and Holly succeed in preventing Brady from detonating his explosives.

In the epilogue, Jerome and Holly are rewarded with the medal of the city; Hodges is lucky not to be charged for his irresponsible conduct. Brady, who had been beaten by Holly into a coma, wakes up.


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." It received a 4.07/5 score on Goodreads, dropping to 3.87 as of 19 January with 43,562 ratings [9] and a 4/5 on Barnes & Noble.[10]

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."[11] 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".[12] 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." [13]

Tasha Robinson of The AV 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".[14]


On January 13, 2015 it was announced that Mr. Mercedes would be turned into a limited television series. David E. Kelley is slated to write the project and Jack Bender will direct. Kelley and Stephen King will serve as executive producers.


  1. ^ "Stephen King - Mr Mercedes release date and synopsis". December 11, 2013. 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. ^ "A Conversation with Stephen King". Chancellor's Speaker Series. University of Massachusetts Lowell. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  6. ^ Tucker, Ken (May 25, 2013). "A Rare Interview with Master Storyteller Stephen King". Parade. Retrieved May 26, 2013. 
  7. ^ Minzesheimer, Bob (September 18, 2013). "After 36 years, King gives 'Shining' a new luster in sequel". USA Today. Retrieved December 7, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Stephen King's 'Mr. Mercedes': Read an excerpt now". Entertainment Weekly's Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  9. ^ Stephen King. "Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #1)". Goodreads. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  10. ^ APratt0414 (4 June 2014). "Mr. Mercedes". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  11. ^ "Mr Mercedes by Stephen King review – a crime thriller from the horror master". the Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  12. ^ Brian Truitt , USA TODAY (2 June 2014). "USA TODAY". USA TODAY. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  13. ^ Stephen King's 'Mr. Mercedes': book review - NY Daily News
  14. ^ "Review: Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes repeatedly subverts expectations · Book Review · The A.V. Club". Retrieved 1 June 2015.