Stephen King. Mr. Mercedes. New York: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2014.
Stephen King is not just a horror-meister, of course; he's a talented writer in any genre and this detective novel is a fine example. Brady is a mass murderer, never caught, who goads retired Mid-west cop Bill Hodges into pursuing him again. The reader is privy to the minds of both detective and criminal as they race to outguess and outwit each other. Teenaged scholar Jerome and unstable, middle-aged Holly end up being Hodges' only assistants in preventing another disaster. Hodges' former partner, still a working policeman, is unaware of the secret drama in his own domain. Amid the growing tension, King deftly inserts a sweet love story.
The author has an acknowledged penchant for detail, particularly when a psychologically unbalanced individual is involved. So much so that the perp's repulsive home life is probably TMI for most readers. Will Hodges' analytical experience be enough to identify Brady in time? I found myself asking who is going to have the last word when all is said and done! But only one question, really: Stephen, whatever happened to rock star concerts having a less-known band to open for them?
One-liner: They're wondering if I'm riding into the Kingdom of Dementia on the Alzheimer's Express ... . (73)
Old friends have lunch:
They thump each other on the back the requisite number of times and Pete tells him he's looking good."You know the three Ages of Man, don't you?" Hodges asks.Pete shakes his head, grinning."Youth, middle age, and you look fuckin terrific."Pete roars with laughter and asks if Hodges knows what the blond said when she opened the box of Cheerios. Hodges says he does not. Pete makes big amazed eyes and says, "Oh. Look at the cute little doughnut seeds!"Hodges gives his own obligatory roar of laughter (although he does not think this is a particularly witty example of Genus Blond), and with the amenities thus disposed of, they sit down. (48-50)
Brady muses on the 9/11 terrorists:
Those clowns actually thought they were going to paradise, where they'd live in a kind of eternal luxury hotel being serviced by gorgeous young virgins. Pretty funny, and the best part? The joke was on them ... not that they knew it. What they got was a momentary view of all those windows and a final flash of light. After that, they and their thousands of victims were just gone. Poof. Seeya later, alligator. Off you go, killers and killed alike, off you go into the universal null set that surrounds one lonely blue planet and all its mindlessly bustling denizens. Every religion lies. Every moral precept is a delusion. Even the stars are a mirage. The truth is darkness, and the only thing that matters is making a statement before one enters it. Cutting the skin of the world and leaving a scar. That's all history is, after all: scar tissue. (323)
Karin Fossum. In the Darkness. 1995. London: Harvill Secker, 2012.
Note the dates above: Fossum is not the only excellent Scandinavian author to suffer what one reviewer dubbed the "TOOO syndrome" ― Translated Out Of Order! It's not the first Fossum I've read but it happens to be the first in her (Norwegian) Inspector Konrad Sejer series. It begins with Eva, the artist, discovering a dead body in the river; it's a man who went missing six months before. She's clearly terrified and does not report it. Sejer has a more recent murder case that possibly ties into the drowned body. Midway, the story backtracks into more detail that was largely predictable. In fact, we get so much detail that I felt it detracted from the suspense it was intended to create. Also, thanks to Eva's wandering thoughts, I found myself skipping through tedious paragraphs. Therefore I wasn't crazy about this book but it won't stop me picking up another Fossum later in the series when she found her chops.
To the nursing home:
He always had to psych himself up before he went, needed that extra bit of energy. It was lacking now, but a fortnight had passed since his last visit. He straightened up and nodded to the caretaker who was just coming along with a stepladder on his shoulder, he had a relaxed swing to his walk and a contented smile on his face, the sort of man who loved his job, who lacked nothing in life and who perhaps never understood what everyone else was making such a fuss about. Extraordinary. There aren't many expressions like that, Sejer thought, and suddenly caught sight of his own gloomy face in the glass door facing him. I'm not especially happy, he thought suddenly, but then I've never been very concerned about it either. (88)
The suspect panics:
He'd found the note. After six months he'd found the note.
The police had handwriting experts, they could find out who's written it, but first they had to have something to compare it with, and then they could study each little loop, the joins and circles, dots and dashes, a unique pattern which revealed the writer, with every characteristic and neurotic tendency, perhaps even sex and age. They went to college and studied all this, it was a science. (114)
 Jeremy Megraw, 10 July 2013, "A guide to Karin Fossum’s Inspector Sejer," Crime Fiction Lover (http://www.crimefictionlover.com/2013/07/a-guide-to-karin-fossums-inspector-sejer/ : accessed 8 April 2015).
Jussi Adler-Olsen. The Purity of Vengeance. New York: Dutton/Penguin, 2013.
Timely translation tells you how highly Adler-Olsen is regarded. In Copenhagen's police department Q, Carl Mørck is juggling more cases than ever, not all of them consigned to the cold past. In fact a couple of them feel like a conspiracy against himself. The accidental death of his uncle many years ago, a recent acid-throwing attack, and the ever-present haunting of a police shoot-out are enough to occupy him. Not to worry, his eccentric assistants Rose and Assad keep him focused on what's important ― the suspicious disappearance of five people on the same day in 1987.
The repeat characters (this is fourth in a series) are irresistible. Their humour leavens the balance with the gritty social message about übermensch and eugenics. Adler-Olsen has an exceptionally fine way of dealing with society's marginalized or forgotten groups, represented here by Nete who suffered numerous injustices. The pacing of the disparate elements in her story is brilliant. I'm ordering the next book now!
Girlfriend Mona's surprise:
"This is Samantha, my youngest daughter," Mona announced. "She's been looking forward to meeting you."
The eyes of this clone of a twenty-year-younger Mona did not, however, exude quite as much pleasure as her mother's introduction seemed to warrant. She gave him the once-over, clearly noticing his receding temples, his rather crumpled posture, and the knot in his tie that suddenly felt far too tight. It was obvious she wasn't impressed.
"Hi, Carl," she said, already revealing resentment of her mother's latest dip into the bottomless pit labeled "Men the Cat Dragged In."
"Hi, Samantha," he replied, struggling to produce something resembling an enthusiastic smile. What the hell had Mona been telling her about him that made him such a disappointment in real life?
The situation took a further nosedive when a small boy came charging in and gave him a whack over the legs with a plastic sword. (107-8)
Nete was standing before her father. There was a darkness about him, a bitterness she had never seen before.
"All through school I defended you, Nete. Do you realize that?"
She nodded, knowing it to be true. More times than she cared to recall they had been summoned to the dismal classroom, where her father had protested against the headmaster's and the schoolmistress's threats. But each time, he had softened up sufficiently to listen to the charges and promise she would mend her ways. He would teach her to abide by the word of God and to think twice about what words she took in her mouth. He would lead her onto a better path and correct her licentious behaviour.
But Nete never understood why he could swear so profusely himself and why it was so wrong to talk about what males and females did, when it was all around them every day on the farm. (141)
A day at the office:
It was the kind of day Carl detested most. December slush in the streets and Christmas lights in everyone's eyes. Why the sudden glee over water turning white and the department stores' unscrupulous abuse of the world's dwindling energy resources?
It was bollocks, all of it, and his mood was long since ruined.
"You've got visitors," Rose announced from the doorway.
He swiveled round, ready to spit out his annoyance. What was the matter with people? Couldn't they phone first? (496)