Tag Archives: Mr. Mercedes

Edgar winner winner chicken dinner

raindogsFriends, I am heartily sorry for spending the last five months away from my book blog, but I resolve to turn over a new leaf!  Where I left you last was waiting for the outcome of the Edgar Awards banquet in New York City, after having read, reviewed and ranked finalists in three categories.  I’ll cut to the chase:  I’m batting .333 here – Edgar judges only agreed with me on the Best Original Paperback.  We both selected Adrian McKinty’s Rain Dogs.  His series featuring Irish police detective Sean Duffy is set in the 1980s and feels fresh and funny, but has a noir edge.

harrow.jpgFor Best First Novel, I picked Heather Young’s The Lost Girls, which is a character-driven suspense novel with two story lines (1935 and present day).  I was a fan the first time I read it, and an even bigger fan on rereading for the Edgars.  Alas, the Edgar went to Flynn Berry  for Under the Harrow, which was fifth on my ranking.  To be fair, Berry;s thriller is a great read in the Girl on the Train “genre” – unreliable female protagonist is driven around the bend but prevails.  I expect a movie any month now.

fallAnd for Best Novel, I gave the Literary Lunchbox Edgar to Lyndsey Faye’s Jane Steele.  I am not usually a fan of historical, but this one is genre-bending tribute to Jane Eyre, very well-written with plenty of action.  The actual award went to Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall.  I did enjoy Hawley’s book a great deal, which takes a pretty ordinary guy, puts him into extraordinary circumstances, and then ramps up a mystery with a big dose of conspiracy.  It’s got some plot holes that are apparent on re-reading, and my friend and writing buddy Addy Whitehouse really hated it, but I was more forgiving.  It was third on my list.

In a non-reviewed category, Best Critical/Biographical, the winner was Ruth Franklin’s biography of Shirley Jackson, which I read and enjoyed despite its doorstopper length.  It was also good to see Charles Todd (Charles and Caroline Todd) win the Mary Higgins Clark award for The Shattered Tree.

This is my eighth year reviewing Edgar nominees, and what I’ve found is that some years the Edgar judges agree with me (100% in 2010!) and some years they don’t (0% in 2011).  Here’s a round-up!  If you’re looking for some great reads, generally you can’t go wrong with my picks OR Mystery Writers of America’s choices, and all are now available in paperback.   Happy reading!

2010:  MWA and I agreed on John Hart’s The Last Child for Best Novel and Stefanie Pintoff’s In the Shadow of Gotham for Best First Novel.

2011:  I still think MWA was crazy, giving Steve Hamilton’s The Lock Artist the Best Novel award over Tana French’s Faithful Place, and Rogue Island (Bruce De Silva) instead of Nic Pizzolatto’s Galveston for Best First Novel.  (Not that I don’t like Steve Hamilton.)

2012:  It was 50/50 – MWA and I both gave Mo Hayder’s Gone the Best Novel Edgar (I loooooove Mo Hayder), but Lori Roy’s Bent Road took home the actual Edgar while the Literary Lunchbox award went to Leonard Rosen’s All Cry Chaos.  (Rosen sent me a very nice note by email commenting on my review.  Swoon.)

2013:  Another 0% year.  Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night won Best Novel, while Gillian Flynn’s hugely popular Gone Girl was my pick.  Interestingly, both were made into movies featuring Ben Affleck.  Gone Girl was clearly superior, both book and film.  Meanwhile, Chris Pavoni took Best First Novel home for The Expats, while I would have given the award to Matthew Quirk’s The 500.

2014:  I was crazy this year.  Jason Matthews’ Red Sparrow won the Edgar for Best First Novel, while my pick was Becky Masterman’s Rage Against Dying.  Seriously?  What was I thinking?  William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace took home Best Novel, and I loved it, so that redeems me somewhat.  50-50.

2015:  Another 50% agreement with MWA;  Best First Novel went to Tom Bouton’s Dry Bones in the ValleyAnd it was the year that Stephen King won Best Novel for Mr. Mercedes.  It was fantastic.  But I gave the edge to Mo Hayder for Wolf.  Both fabulous writers.

2016:  As with this year, last year MWA and I were aligned 33% of the time.  We totally agreed that Lou Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone deserved Best Paperback Original.  (I loved it so much I gave it as a gift at least three times!)  For Best Novel, Lori Roy was again an Edgar winner for Let Me Die in His Footsteps while I gave he nod to Duane Swierzynski’s Canary (both good but super-different).  And I gave the Best First Novel Edgar to Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive over the actual Edgar recipient, The Sympathizer by Viet Nanh Nguyen (my #2 pick).

So there you have it, a real round-up to make up for a lengthy absence.  Looking back, I see that I often run out of time or energy as the Edgar awards draw near and I go into hibernation mode immediately following.  I diagnose blogging burn-out!  In 2018, I’ll cut back to a single category (two at the most) and see if that helps.

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Finders Keepers the Follow-up to Edgar-Winning Mr. Mercedes

KingI blew it this year by not calling the Edgar for Best Novel for Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes, but instead ranking it #2 while bestowing the Literary Lunchbox Edgar on Mo Hayder’s Wolf.  (Check it out here.)  Still, I loved the book and was definitely looking forward to #2 in the planned trilogy, Finders Keepers.

findersAnd friends, it is now here.  It’s got all the good stuff that the best King novels have... plotting, pacing, suspense, and wonderful characters.  Still, it definitely feels like King is counting on our patience… particularly since Bill Hodges, our hero and the guy we are most interested in seeing, doesn’t show up until roughly halfway through Finders Keepers.  Nor do Holly Gibney and Jerome Robinson (Aspy-challenged savant and bright black teen with a twisted sense of humor).  ‘

This is risky, because how does King know that we’ll put up with 147 pages of what is essentially backstory?  But what a backstory!  Picture this:  obsessed fan talks two buddies into robbing the home of a famous, reclusive author.  (Think JD Salinger with a twist of John Updike.)   Author ends up dead, fan and buddies get away with a bunch of unpublished manuscripts and a pile of cash.  No surprise, fan kills partners… but then goes to prison for a very long time for an unrelated crime.  Oh, and did I say it’s 1978?

Flash forward to 2010, when teenage Pete Sauber – who is super-smart but also pretty dorky – discovers the fan’s cache.  His parents are having serious money problems, as his dad was one of the unemployed job fair hopefuls who got run over by Mr. Mercedes in King’s previous book.  Pete quickly decides to send $500/month in cash to his parents, who conveniently and understandably decide that there is a benefactor out there trying to make life better for the Mercedes killer’s victims.  (Which is sort of true.)

Of course, you can see where this is going.  Right about the time the money runs out, the fan gets out of jail and the two – elderly bad guy and teenage dork – are on a collision course that is not likely to end well.  Fortunately, Pete ends up with an ace in the hole.  That’s right, Bill.  Plus Holly and Jerome.

It’s a pretty wild ride.  As with Mr. Mercedes, there’s a lot of tension and quite a few bodies along the way.  There’s also great pacing, some new and believable characters, and interesting character development, as Bill grapples with his responsibility for Janey’s death, Holly has become more independent, and Jerome is now a Harvard man.

The stand-off at the end, as the fan (Morris Bellamy) threatens to shoot Pete’s little sister, while Pete threatens to set  the author’s manuscripts on fire, is a nail-biter.  I won’t spoil it for you, except to reassure you that Bill Hodges is a hero.

I predict great things for this Stephen King.  He may be a newbie at detective fiction, but he’s got what it takes.

Congrats to Edgar recipients Jim Klise, Tom Bouman and Stephen King!

EdgarsSo, I’m feeling pretty smug – I may not have batted 1000 on my Edgar rankings this year, but it was pretty dang close.   I called it 100% one time, been completely wrong once, and otherwise tend to get one right and the other one wrong.  Since I’m not actually trying to predict the outcome, but to review and rank by my own standards (I’m not actually sure what standards the Edgars judges actually use!), it’s not surprising that I am not in perfect alignment.  Still, MWA and Literary Lunchbox agree way more often than random chance would dictate.

secretsFirst up, kudos to ADA pal and FB friend Jim Klise, whose young adult mystery The Art of Secrets took home an Edgar.  I read The Art of Secrets and enjoyed it very much!  Not in middle school?  Read it anyway!

bonesMy call for Best First Novel was Tom Bouman’s Dry Bones in the Valley.  An assured debut, it stood out for me among the other worthy nominees.  And indeed, it won the Edgar.  My good friend Addy Whitehouse reviewed this category as well – her call was The Life We Bury.  I enjoyed that book, but it wasn’t my favorite.

mercedeAnd you all know just how difficult the call was for Best Novel this year.  Of the six nominees, I truly felt that five of them were 5-star books.  Ultimately, I gave Mo Hayder’s Wolf the nod because it was a more complex narrative, in my estimation, than Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes.  I ranked that #2, and dang it, Mr. King’s Mr. Mercedes took home the Edgar.  Still, if this were horseshoes, I’d be the big winner.

The Edgar excitement is all over for another year!   Colleagues in my workplace find it all super-geeky, but hey, geek is chic.

Mr. Mercedes enters Edgar ranking for Best Novel

mercedeIn the immortal words of Bart Simpson:  Ay, carumba.

My reading, reviewing and ranking is running out of time, with just three of the nominees for the MWA Edgar for Best Novel checked off… and they are neck and neck and neck, to boot.

It’s not getting any easier.  As the clock ticks down to Wednesday’s big reveal at the Edgars Banquet in NYC, Stephen King – master of the horror genre among other literary achievements – is now on board with his detective novel, Mr. Mercedes.  It’s a classic for the genre, but feels fresh, thanks to King’s spin.

The book opens with the victims.  Down-on-his-luck Augie Odenkirk has queued up late one evening for a jobs fair that doesn’t open till the next morning… but he’s bound and determined to be one of the lucky ones.  He’s in line next to the even sadder Janice Cray and her baby.  The crowd swells.  And then the artful King begins to build suspense with an outcry from the within the mob, identifying the source of the voice as  “… Keith Frias, whose left arm would shortly be torn from his body.”  Indeed it would, by the madman driving a stolen gray Mercedes. And this is King’s strength – to portray a scene, a short scene, really, and introduce the people there and make the reader care about Augie and Janice and her baby Patti, and then to drop inescapable horror into the midst of them.   Thus is our killer introduced – through his impact on his victims.

Now fast forward to retired Detective Bill Hodges.  He and his partner Pete had tried and failed to apprehend Mr. Mercedes.   The crime scene reveals the bad guy to be smart and evil, with a wickedly twisted sense of humor.  Hodges is the classic washed-up detective, lonely, overweight, watching too much TV and eyeing his gun, haunted by crimes unsolved.  The bright spot in his life is not friends or family, but Jerome, the African-American teen who cuts his lawn.

Then one day Hodges receives a letter from Mr. Mercedes, taunting him and suggesting that Hodges would be better off dead.   But instead of feeding Hodges’ sense of failure, the letter intrigues him.  We see the detective Hodges had been:  a smart and intuitive problem-solver.  And thus begins the cat and mouse game.  But who is the cat?  And who is the mouse?

King reveals the identity of Mr. Mercedes early on, and Brady Hartsfield is truly sick (in both senses of the word).   Brady works by day at a discount computer store “geek squad,”  drives an ice cream truck in the afternoon and spends his evenings in a basement lair filled with explosives and computer gadgetry.  He’s a 28-year old virgin (unless you count the many times his mom has helped ease his “headache” by fondling something a little farther south) who killed his little brother, murdered eight people and maimed countless more with a stolen car, drove the car’s owner to suicide, and is entertaining himself by doing the same to Det. Hodges prior to committing some final unspecified heinous suicidal act of mayhem.

King stays true to the genre as Hodges decides to solve the crime himself, enlists his Harvard-bound lawn boy as his new partner, taps into his contacts for intel, and starts hitting the streets even as he engages Brady in an online private chat room.   The only thing missing is the love interest… oh, wait, here she is!  Janey Patterson is the sister of the woman who owned the Mercedes Brady stole; the woman who killed herself out of guilt for leaving her keys in the car that was used in the vehicular massacre.  Or at least that’s what Bill Hodges thought at the time.  Now that he’s met Janey and gained a new perspective on her sister Olivia, he realizes that he and his partner jumped to the easy conclusion.  His regret only ramps up his determination to bring the killer to justice.

But enough synopsizing.  King’s writing is flawless, and he escalates the suspense masterfully.  There’s not a wasted paragraph nor clunky plot hole to be found.  (Unlike his recent Revival.  Enough said.)  The characters are great, particularly Janey’s cousin Holly, who starts out a compulsive, mother-pecked bundle of nerves and through sheer grit, becomes a hero.  Hodges’ rebirth into a man of action through the application of romance is a breath of fresh air.   Especially good news is that Mr. Mercedes is evidently the first book in a planned trilogy, so I’m looking forward to more of Hodges, Jerome and Holly.  (Next up:  Finders Keepers.)

How does King’s novel stack up against such stiff competition as Cop Town, The Final Silence, and Saints of the Shadow Bible?   No doubt about it – it’s #1.

mwa_logoLiterary Lunchbox Rankings: Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award, Best Novel

  1. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
  2. Cop Town by Karin Slaughter
  3. The Final Silence by Stuart Neville
  4. Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin