As mentioned in my first Stephen King review, it became clear to me while reading The Outsider that one of the characters was from a previous work. That work turned out to be an entire trilogy of gritty crime novels. I snagged them from the library last week, and have spent much of the intervening time reading them.
Conclusion: they’re good. Also, large print books are awesome for my aging, failing eyes, and I’ll be on the lookout for large print editions when possible in the future.
The first two novels in the series, Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, are straight-up mystery/crime books with no supernatural elements. Mr. Mercedes is the better book, I think, but that’s at least partly because Finders Keepers involves a J.D. Salinger-type writer and I am really tired of Stephen King having stories revolve around writers. You’re a writer, bub. I get it. We all get it. We got it in The Dark Half, and Bag of Bones, and Duma Key, and… yeah. We get it. I actually stopped reading King for a while because he seemed to be in a rut where every main character was a middle-aged writer. I mean, sure, write what you know, but… c’mon.
Fortunately, the writer is offed in the opening. This is a crime novel, after all.
By the end of the second book, there are a whole lot of pointers to the fact that the third one (End of Watch) is going to be more supernatural in nature, even if you weren’t already aware of that due to mentions in The Outsider. And that turns out to, indeed, be the case; what was impressive was that the book still managed to be a solid mystery/crime novel despite the supernatural elements.
That said, I feel that the series had a pretty linear decline in quality. They were all good, but Mr. Mercedes was the best, with the most captivating villain and the best “oh, if only!” moments. That’s actually kinda nice, to be honest; if you only have time for one of them, you can read the first and be pretty content.
Are they better than The Outsider, you ask? I think I enjoyed that book more, because the back half of it was a more traditional King novel, with the dreamlike logic those books contain. But that book is also a very, well, King-ian work, with weird horrible magical things happening and massive confusion reigning. I like that sort of thing, but totally understand why some people don’t.
On the other hand, Mr. Mercedes presents a perfectly human villain that does things almost as awful. Isn’t that worse, really?