MR MERCEDES by Stephen King

I’m a long-time fan of Stephen King’s (not that he knows): I think he’s one of the most underrated of popular novelists. He has a knack of telling stories so realistically that you get swept up in them, even if it’s actually a sub-plot and after ten or twenty pages you suddenly emerge from the book thinking, ‘Oh yes, that wasn’t even the main story, was it?’ Of course, SK has made his name writing horror. My own personal favourite is The Dead Zone but that’s scarcely relevant at the moment. The point is, I knew from the outset that Mr Mercedes was a mystery-cum-thriller, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be drawn into this story as thoroughly as I was drawn into the others.
   Well, I was – almost. The characters are well-drawn as usual. The situations and locations are well described, as usual. The pace is unrelenting, as usual. All these aspects are enough to make the book a good read. But I felt it didn’t quite cut the mustard in two respects. One, there wasn’t much to the mystery/detecting side of the story. It was a bit simplistic and the police procedural side of it all didn’t seem real to me. Two, the IT side of the story was also a bit simplistic. The main character, a retired detective, seemed unbelievably backward when it came to anything computer-related. Luckily, of course, he had a young friend who, having grown up in the computer age, knew far more about everything than he did. Bit of a cliché. But even our IT hero didn’t exactly show much in the way of computer knowledge.
   So, seven out of ten, maybe? Great characterisation – great writing – but perhaps in a genre that isn’t SK’s strongest.
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