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Bookends: Mr. King spins a couple of mean mysteries January 19, 2017

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, mystery, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Mr. King spins a couple of mean mysteries

By Dan Davidson

July 27, 2016

– 917 words –mr-mercedes

 

Mr. Mercedes: A Novel
By Stephen King
Kindle Edition

Print Length: 449 pages

Scribner

$9.99

 

If the first few pages of this book have you thinking about the recent terrorist activity in Nice, France, it serves as a reminder that twisted, evil people do not necessarily need a warped ideology to motivate them. Brady Hartsfield was simply curious about what would happen if he drove a large car into a crowd of people; what would it be like and could he get away with it?

So – if you were expecting something like Christine, or From a Buick 8 from a writer who has regularly used vehicles for supernatural or paranormal purposes, forget all that. This is a very straightforward murder mystery, winner of the 2015 Edgar Award for Best Mystery of the Year.

Hartsfield, a brilliant, but twisted and extremely bent young man, is presented to us in such a way that he is almost sympathetic, and yet we gradually become aware of the depths of his bargain basement style of evil. After his coup with the stolen car, he used his internet skills to prey upon the unbalanced woman from whom he had stolen it to the point where she commits suicide.

All this happened some months ago when we finally meet retired homicide detective Bill Hodges, who did not manage to catch the killer on what was his last case, and who is slowly heading towards suicide himself when the killer makes the mistake of his life. He sends Hodges a taunting letter and makes him decide he has to solve this case.

It’s not easy. He has no official standing. He has let himself get seriously out of shape in the months since the original crime was committed. He discovers that he and his partner made a few errors in their handling of the case, and he can’t tell the police about any of it, because he’s not supposed to be doing this.

His connections to the family of the woman who owned the Mercedes leads to a love affair, which in turn leads to a tragedy. With the assistance of a local high school boy and the emotionally challenged cousin of the woman who killed herself, he does come to a proper solution in a manner that has all the earmarks of a police procedural novel.

The story wraps up nicely and I had no idea it was going anywhere else until I read a review of the third Bill Hodges novel in The Walrus magazine.

 

Finders Keepers

By Stephen Kingfinders-keepers

Kindle Edition

Print Length: 385 pages

Scribner

$9.99

 

The opening of Finders Keepers, the second book in this trilogy, owes something to Misery, which is King’s other novel about an obsessed fan. In 1978, Morris Bellamy decided to kill John Rothstein, the “genius” author who created a character called Jimmy Gold and took him in literary directions that made Bellamy angry. Sure, there was money in that safe, but the real prize was the notebooks, which contained all the material that the Salinger-like Rothstein had never published: short stories, other novels and notably, several more Jimmy Gold novels.

Bellamy, a young man with delusions of intellectual adequacy, celebrates his success by killing his two partners in crime, getting drunk and getting arrested for assault and rape after he had hidden a trunk with the money and the notebooks under a tree near his boyhood home.

Fast forward to the events that opened Mr. Mercedes, to another family touched by Hartsfield’s insane desire to kill.

Peter Saubers’ father was crippled by the car and the family fortunes went from bad to worse. Eventually they have to move to the run down house that had been Bellamy’s home a quarter century earlier. Young Peter is near the bottom end of despair when he finds the trunk, the money and the notebooks. Operating in secret, he funnels the money to his parents over several years to ease their problems. The family recovers quite well with the extra boost, which they think comes from a fund that was established to help victims of the assault. Mom gets a full time teaching job and Dad eventually is able to walk again and make a new start in the real estate business.

Bill Hodges gets involved in this one about half way through the book, when Peter begins to try and flog the notebooks of the famous author so that his sister can afford to go to a better quality of school, where her best friend goes.

The friend happens to be the sister of the young black man who helped Hodges in the first book, and so the connection is made.

To complicate things, Bellamy has finally been released from prison – and he wants his hidden trunk back.

Once again, this is pretty much a mainstream mystery in which we spend time with the villain, the good guys and other related individuals. Once again there is almost nothing paranormal in this novel; the narrative contains moments of horror, but they are mundane in origin.

Note that I said “almost”. There are a few scenes with Hodges and Brady Hartsfield in this book, scenes which suggest there is more to that story, and that something very nasty might be brewing in that damaged brain. That will apparently be the story in End of Watch, and I may read that one while I’m on vacation next month.

 

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