Mr. Mercedes

by Stephen King

“Everybody likes the ice cream man.”

“The woman says her name is Holly Gibney, but I think she’s really Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.”

“It’s as if there’s a fumble-fingered but powerful universal force at work, always trying to put wrong things right.”

One of the reasons I wanted to read Mr. Mercedes was because I heard tell of Holly Gibney, who is introduced in this book and is a character in several others of King’s works.

“I just love Holly, and I wish she were a real person. […] She just walked on in the first book she was in, Mr. Mercedes, and she more or less stole the book, and she stole my heart.”

-Stephen King

I was further encouraged because it won the Edgar Award for best novel of 2015. Unfortunately, Holly doesn’t make an appearance until halfway through, and I liked her, but I was a little underwhelmed considering the hype, including the miniseries which features her character. Just a little. I don’t think SK knew what he had with Holly Gibney until the book was almost finished. I look forward to seeing more of Holly. This was a good introduction and there is a lot of promise there. (I’m sure the great Mr. King will be relieved I think so) But I also hope Jerome and his family are in other related books because I loved them right from the get-go.

Mr. Mercedes is about the cat and mouse game between a twisted evil young man and a broken-down retired detective. The young man is Brady Hartsfield who has already committed mass murder by mowing down a group of innocents with a borrowed Mercedes.

“Most people are fitted with Lead Boots when they are just little kids and have to wear them all their lives. These Lead Boots are called A CONSCIENCE. I have none, so I can soar high above the heads of the Normal Crowd.”

The old before his time “ret-det”, Bill Hodges, is so done with life that he is flirting with suicide.

“What he knows now is that guilt isn’t the only reason people commit suicide. Sometimes you can just get bored with afternoon TV.”

Brady has already driven one innocent woman connected with his heinous act to suicide and now he is targeting Bill Hodges, who was the head investigator in the murder and failed to catch him before his retirement. But Bill is wily.

Once Brady makes contact with Bill, it gives him the purpose he needed to keep living. He starts to re-investigate. Thanks to the puzzle, what he learns along the way, and a lovely woman he meets in the course of his search, he is rejuvenated. When he learns that Mr. Mercedes had a role in the death of the woman who owned the car, whom he and his partner had wrongly accused of negligence, it ups the ante. When Mr. Mercedes victimizes someone closely connected to Bill, it gets personal. Along with his young friend Jerome and the neurotic emotionally disturbed Holly, his junior detectives, he is hot on Mr. Mercedes’s trail. But will they catch him before he can commit an atrocity that will make his first mass murder look like just a prelude to the main event? I loved that the car comes full circle from a force for evil to a force for good. It just depends on who’s doing the driving.

Most of the book is told from Bill Hodges’s point of view. But it was necessary to tell some of it from Brady Hartsfield’s as well. What we learn about him and his thoughts are so gross and disgusting, it actually took away from my enjoyment of the book. Every time we had to go there, I had to force myself not to skip through those parts. But don’t worry, the dog is not harmed.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

January 9, 2022

The Fledgling

By Elizabeth Cadell

This is the story of a journey of a most formidable and inscrutable 10-year-old girl. Tory lives a lonely restricted life with her elderly aunts and equally elderly governess in an ancient castle in Lisbon. Her widowed and still grieving father, whom she hardly knows, decides she must go to school in England to gain some balance in her life. On the way to England, she discovers her chaperone is a nasty drunk and a thief. They are together on a train until he “somehow” leaves the train in pursuit of his luggage he “somehow” thinks has been mistakenly off-loaded by the porter. Tory makes her way to London contentedly alone and, safely in her care, is a priceless gold figurine that had been stolen by the man from the chapel of her aunts.

She is to stop over with her father’s cousin, for a day, before making her way north to her boarding school. Phillipa is lively and lovely as well as frank to a fault. She is forthright and open and she wastes no time expressing her justified disapproval of Tory’s father and his failings as a parent. Even though, or maybe because Tory is quiet and prefers to watch and listen, she immediately feels a kinship and rapport with this distant cousin. Because of her trust and confidence, she confides in her about the figurine which she had meant to keep secret until she could get it back to Portugal. This sets off a chain of events that extends her stay with Phillipa and brings her father back from South America. She becomes acquainted with a boy and his dog, a wicked old lady, a nice old lady, and a suspicious but upright highly placed government official. To further add to the mix, both her father and the stern official both used to be engaged to the charming Phillipa. And Phillipa is still in love with one of them.

This is a thoroughly delightful novel starring one of the most intriguing children I have run across in a book. Let’s just say it would not be wise to oppose her. By the end of the book the people Tory likes or loves are happy and the ones she does not like are not happy. Her future is bright with the promise of newfound freedom and a new family.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

November 15, 2021

The Twisted Ones

By T. Kingfisher

You got hickory with you, you got a piece of the world that’s normal. It’s so normal it’ll cancel out some of the weirdness. You follow?” Clearly I was losing my mind, because that actually made a kind of sense. I went back to the house with a hickory rosary and a bag of dried roots draped around my neck.

I struggle between 3 and 4 stars for this one. I am going with 4 because of the entertaining humor and likability of our heroine, Mouse. Not to mention her cohort, Foxy. It also has one of the most adorable dogs I have ever read about, Bongo.

I have no idea what he’d actually do if he caught a possum—lick it to death, probably. Coonhounds usually get dumped when they turn out not to be very good hunters. Bongo is an excellent watchdog, by which I mean that he will watch very alertly as the serial killer breaks into the house and skins me.

Yep. 4 stars for this triumvirate. The story itself is not my cup of tea. I do love an occasional horror book and/or movie, but this folk-horror genre is not for me I guess. It was not scary, but bizarre and kind of nuts. I am glad I familiarized myself with The White People and Other Weird Stories by Arthur Machen of which this book is a kind of a sequel. What other reviewers found tedious in its exploration of Cotgrave’s journal, I found very interesting. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 30, 2019

How to Train Your Husband (or How to Pick Your Second Husband First.)

Dumb and Dumber

I thought this might be a remake of the funny and charming If a Man Answers with Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin. No such luck. The only thing it had going for it was the change of pace from the usual Hallmark tropes. The couple was already married and working to save their marriage. No festivals! Yay! However the female lead character was an incompetent marriage counselor and stupid and clueless to boot with her own marriage. Her mother was toxic and not in a fun way. The black couple was sensible and well adjusted. Not sure why they were friends with the idiot main couple.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

May 19, 2020

Crazy for You

By Jennifer Crusie

This light and funny romantic comedy is about a beloved and successful high school coach’s descent into madness and hurting little puppies. Sigh. Jennifer Crusie’s’ great writing skills are very much here: It kept me turning the pages although I had to start skipping a bit because it did get repetitive towards the end. I felt that there was really only enough material for a category romance, but I think she had to stretch it out because the serious nature of the content didn’t fit the usual template of a category. The coach’s character and that of his cohort, the principal of the school, was chilling. They were absolutely hateful. And the puppy was ok at the end.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

September 30, 2019

Getting Rid of Bradley

By Jennifer Crusie

“You know who you remind me of? The kid cop in Lethal Weapon 3. You know, the one who says, ‘it’s my twenty-first birthday today’, and right away you know he’s dead meat?”

This is a 5 star short category romance, and a 3 star mainstream novel. As many romances, it’s been both. As soon as Lucy divorces her louse of a husband, a cop shows up looking to arrest him for embezzlement. Also, she gets shot at and her car gets blown up. The cop moves in to protect his star witness. Likable H/h, good secondary characters, and nicely done funny banter. Very well written, it is no surprise Crusie went on to write bonafide women’s fiction. Great choice if you want a nice romance you can read in a day with a little mystery and danger thrown in.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

April 17, 2019

Troublemaker

By Linda Howard

“Oh, how sweet. Let me check my give-a-shit meter to see where that registers. Nope, nothing there. Sorry.”

Linda Howard used to be one of my favorite authors, but after a few disappointments, she slipped off my radar screen. I thought I’d revisit her again, hoping that she had regained her appeal. As mentioned by many reviewers, there was way too much dog in this. Even the dog’s toy (a ball) had over 120 mentions. I skipped through the last half. There were some good parts, here and there, and some good characters. Enough that I will probably check out the next in the series that this one begins. The clue to the mystery was in plain sight and I just didn’t see it. I felt very stupid. So good on her.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

July 07, 2016

The Stranger Diaries

By Elly Griffiths

“It’s a quote,’ I say. ‘From The Tempest.’ ‘What’s the next line?’ says Harbinder though I’m sure she’s looked it up. ‘Hell is empty,’ I say, ‘and all the devils are here.”

I loved the 4 narrator format on this audio. There were many things I liked about the book: The literary theme, the characters, the old-fashionedness, the creepiness, the light humor. I liked the characters seeing themselves from the different perspectives of the others and the changes of attitudes from the first impressions. There were also some amusing references to Harry Potter and Georgette Heyer. However, the murderer proved something of an anticlimax. Looking back I should have guessed (which I didn’t even suspect, my bad) because there was no one else it really could have been as motivation or opportunity was lacking in everyone else. Actually, the motive was pretty obscure to me. The Stranger, the story within the novel wasn’t very good either. And much to my annoyance and confusion, since I was listening to it on audible, the last 30 minutes is a telling of the whole story all over again and just tacks on an ending. There was a ghostly presence near the end but I feel like it was a loose end. I feel like there should have been more links between the story, The Stranger. and the mystery of The Stranger Diaries.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

May 19, 2020

The Blue Sky of Spring

by Elizabeth Cadell

..but life was too full—she decided—to worry about whether you looked like a monkey or whether you didn’t. It didn’t matter much until you grew up and wanted to stun some man into marrying you.

A continuation of the gentle English romance and chronicle of the Wayne family of the 1950’s and 60’s. There was a difficult and disturbing scene involving the lovable family dog that struck a discordant note. It ended on a bitter-sweet chord, though we know there is a third book in the series for all to find their happy endings. I didn’t enjoy the main couple as much as the first one. I was annoyed by Estelle, and thought she treated both of the men who loved her rather shabbily due to her wimpiness. First, because she didn’t want to hurt Nicholas, and ended up prolonging his pain, and then kept Cliff hanging way too long and only committed when he finally got tired of waiting for her and told her he was moving on. She was lucky to get him. He was way too good for her.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

June 27, 2016

Looking Forward

by Marcia Willett

“It had given [Freddie] a kind of fierce satisfaction to reject his faith, to mock at him; yet how little satisfaction he’d given her.
‘I don’t think you care about saving my soul,’ she’d said to him [Theo] once.
‘Your soul is God’s affair, not mine.’ he’d answered ‘It’s not a contest, Freddy. You have free will.’
She’d felt snubbed, considering her soul to be something rather special that God was waiting for with bated breath, as an ornament to add to His glory.”

The book begins with three children waiting alone at a train station for their grandmother to pick them up and take them to their new home, the Keep, in Devon, England. We soon learn that they are orphans. Their parents and beloved older brother have been hideously slaughtered in Africa during the Mau-Mau rebellion. Right away, we are invested in the fates of serious and responsible 10-year-old Fliss and her psychologically damaged 6-year-old brother Sam (Mole.) There is also Susanna who is just a toddler. We come to intimately know their new family: their strong and loving Grandmother, the wise and kind Great Uncle Theo, an Anglican priest, and the two devoted retainers, Ellen and Fox. Later, Caroline is hired to be their Nanny. She quickly becomes an invaluable part of the family circle as well. We soon meet 3 other key characters: their older twin cousins, Hal and Kit (children of their father’s twin brother), and their mother, widowed Aunt Prue, who is good-hearted but rather flighty and silly.

The book is divided into 4 parts, each approximately 3 years apart. Marcia writes poignantly, amusingly, and sometimes beautifully of the lives and relationships, growing pains, love affairs, and dramas of all 3 generations. In her deft characterizations, she often does not take the easy obvious path. Your expectations are set up for one thing to happen, but things don’t go according to the way they might have if the characters were not as kind, smart, and sensitive as they are. Oh, they are flawed. They struggle. There is plenty of heartbreak as well as joy. And the reader is right there with them. We are not on the outside looking in. Marcia Willett is a talented writer.

By the end of the book, two marriages are in the offing, and Mole has gone a long way to gain control of his fears and become a successful adult. Free-spirit Kit is footloose and fancy-free, and Susanna is a charming and popular teenager. We are left a little doubtful about the prospects of Fliss and Hal. There are still some questions as to whether their chosen paths are going to work out. There is still a secret between the two of the seniors. It definitely leaves us anticipating the continuation of the Chadwick’s stories.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

July 2, 2021