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Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Series #1)

Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Series #1)

4.2 367
by Stephen King

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In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job


In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Megan Abbott
King is clearly having fun, and so are we…For the first half of the novel, King tickles our anxieties, his detective engaging in a classic cat-and-mouse game with the killer. But you can feel him wriggling against the hard-boiled tradition, shaking the hinges. Soon enough, in ways large and small, he rejects and replaces the genre's creakiest devices…But it's the larger genre deviations that make Mr. Mercedes feel so fresh. At their purest, hard-boiled novels are fatalistic, offering a Manichaean view of humanity. For King, however, dark humor extends beyond the investigator's standard one-liners, reflecting a larger worldview. Killers and detectives make mistakes all the time…and coincidences play a far greater role than fate. Mr. Mercedes is a universe both ruled by a playful, occasionally cruel god and populated by characters all of whom have their reasons. One man can do only so much.
“A fast-paced whodunit.”
Miami Herald
"A taut, calibrated thriller . . . The majority of the book is merciless and unforgiving, and the scariest thing about it is how plausible the whole scenario is."
Washington Post
"On one level, Mr. Mercedes is an expertly crafted example of the classic race-against-the-clock thriller. On another, it is a novel of depth and character enriched throughout by the grace notes King provides in such seemingly effortless profusion. It is a rich, resonant, exceptionally readable accomplishment by a man who can write in whatever genre he chooses."
Los Angeles Times
“A showdown between good and evil that characterizes the best of King's work, regardless of genre.”
People Magazine
“A trimmer-than-usual King, but that doesn't mean he skimps on the suspense and spine-tingling chills.”
Associated Press Staff
"Classic Stephen King. Creepy, yet realistic characters that get under your skin and stay there, a compelling story that twists and turns at breakneck speed, and delightful prose that, once again, proves that one of America’s greatest natural storytellers is also one of its finest writers."
USA Today
“King deftly takes elements of hard-boiled mysteries and puts a fresh spin on them.”
The New York Times
“A taut, suspenseful race-against-time book . . . [King is] in reliably fine form.”
“The most straight-up mystery-thriller of [King’s] career…Pretty darn fresh.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“An oh-so-dark mystery that never shuts the door on love, loss and, possibly, redemption.”
Seattle Times
“No one can create a villain quite like King. . . . [A]ll the elements come together in a very public, potentially explosive finale (with a surprising post script). King fans may find themselves furiously turning pages long into the night.”
Boston Herald
“Hartfield is sensitive, sympathetic and one of King’s most realistic characters. He is a lot like Norman Bates from Psycho, in the worst ways imaginable.You can add Hartfield to the list of great King villains, alongside the shape-shifting monster Pennywise from It and the hypnotic vampire Kurt Barlow from Salem’s Lot.”
Sarasota Herald Tribune
“A full-throttle sprint to the finish; the last 80 pages cannot be doled out over multiple reading sessions. You'll have to swallow them all in a single gulp.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“King creates such vivid characters—people you can picture yourself drinking a beer with or inviting over for lunch. So when he puts them in great peril, and that includes Jerome’s family and pet dog and the Mercedes’ owner’s family, it’s a race against time . . .”
“With Mr.Mercedes, [King] demonstrates that he can still rock a pure genre novel like nobody’s business. . . . a thrilling example of King’s boundless imagination.”
Columbus Dispatch
“A literary Van de Graaff generator: tightly paced and parsed with dynamic dialogue and traumatic twists.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“A fast-paced cat-and-mouse game between Hodges, the motley group of unlikely heroes that he assembles, and the Mercedes Killer.”
Raleigh News & Observer
“As always, Stephen King draws very real people and scenes straight out of life as we know it . . .”
Christian Science Monitor
“Think of Mr. Mercedes as an AC/DC song: uncluttered, chugging with momentum, and a lot harder to pull off than it looks. . . . King has written a hot rod of a novel,perfect for a few summer days at the pool. Mercedes-Benz commands drivers to demand ‘the best or nothing.’ In pop-fiction terms, that motto still applies to Stephen King, too. With apologies to AC/DC, the highway to hell never felt so fun.”
Cemetery Dance
“A war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.”
“Along book that doesn’t feel like one. King’s pacing is perfect here . . . [Y]ou should read Mr. Mercedes. You’ll be checking your automobile’s back seat for months, if not years.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“The nerve-shredding denouement is vintage King—a pulse-pounding race against time . . .”
The New York Times - Megan Abbott
"Pays off exuberantly... Surprising and invigorating."
Tampa Bay Times
“King may have left out the supernatural in Mr. Mercedes, but his gifts for creating thoroughly believable characters and thrumming suspense are in full play. He keeps raising the stakes and ratcheting up the violence, and just when you think everything is settled there's one spine-icing little turn on the very last page.”
Onion AV Club
“. . . barrels toward a memorable conclusion. King’s work has almost always gotten lost in translation on the big screen, but his tense, propulsive, ultra-fast-paced climax here seems like it was written with the movie in mind.”
Library Journal
Start your engines and fasten your seat belts for a wild ride with this hard-boiled thriller about a malevolent hit- and-run driver and the race to stop his madness. VERDICT King fans anticipating the sequel will want to reread this, while other readers may enjoy the author's first take on a classic detective story. (LJ 5/15/14)
Kirkus Reviews
In his latest suspenser, the prolific King (Joyland, 2013, etc.) returns to the theme of the scary car—except this one has a scary driver who's as loony but logical unto himself as old Jack Torrance from The Shining.It's an utterly American setup: Over here is a line of dispirited people waiting to get into a job fair, and over there is a psycho licking his chops at the easy target they present; he aims a car into the crowd and mows down a bunch of innocents, killing eight and hurting many more. The car isn't his. The malice most certainly is, and it's up to world-weary ex-cop Bill Hodges to pull himself up from depression and figure out the identity of the author of that heinous act. That author offers help: He sends sometimes-taunting, sometimes-sympathy-courting notes explaining his actions. ("I must say I exceeded my own wildest expectations," he crows in one, while in another he mourns, "I grew up in a physically and sexually abusive household.") With a cadre of investigators in tow, Hodges sets out to avert what is certain to be an even greater trauma, for the object of his cat-and-mouse quest has much larger ambitions, this time involving a fireworks show worthy of Fight Club. And that's not his only crime: He's illegally downloaded "the whole Anarchist Cookbook from BitTorrent," and copyright theft just may be the ultimate evil in the King moral universe. King's familiar themes are all here: There's craziness in spades and plenty of alcohol and even a carnival, King being perhaps the most accomplished coulrophobe at work today. The storyline is vintage King, too: In the battle of good and evil, good may prevail—but never before evil has caused a whole lot of mayhem.The scariest thing of all is to imagine King writing a happy children's book. This isn't it: It's nicely dark, never predictable and altogether entertaining.

Product Details

Gale Group
Publication date:
Bill Hodges Series , #1
Edition description:
Large Print
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.50(d)


Meet the Author

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes The Bill Hodges Trilogy—Mr. Mercedes (an Edgar Award winner for Best Novel), Finders Keepers, and End of Watch; the short story collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams; Revival; Doctor Sleep; and Under the Dome. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller. His epic series, The Dark Tower, is the basis for a major motion picture from Sony. He is the recipient of the 2014 National Medal of Arts and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Brief Biography

Bangor, Maine
Date of Birth:
September 21, 1947
Place of Birth:
Portland, Maine
B.S., University of Maine at Orono, 1970

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Mr. Mercedes: A Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 368 reviews.
APratt0414 More than 1 year ago
I love Stephen King. That has not changed in the 20+ years I've been reading his work. What also hasn't changed is his ability to suck me into a story and bury me so deep that I have lost all sense of time and spatial awareness. I become one with the story and nothing else matters. I can't think, I can't eat, I can't sleep until I am finished living the lives of the people in the book. There is nothing like being immersed in a world that has been created by Mr. King. It is an experience that one does not ever fully return from or fully leave behind. He has perfected his craft so well that each story, each character breaks off a bit and embeds it into your soul for you to mull over, dwell on, and contemplate until your demise. I am happy to let him have those spaces to deposit his leavings as I feel a sense of completeness after each one. It's like he has found missing pieces and is putting them back where they belong. I don't believe that there are any other authors out there that have that affect on me but it doesn't stop me from searching. I almost feel like there is a subliminal message in each of his books that speaks to the innermost part of me, like a nagging voice, "You will read my next story. You will because you need to. You need the drug that I supply."  It's kind of how I think of tattoos as having a chemical in them that make them addictive. No matter the pain, the time, nor the money lost, as soon as you have the first one, you want another. And every time you get another one, it happens again....the craving is there for another. That is what Stephen King is like for me. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book , but be aware , there are no supernatural elements in this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stephen King is a fabulous story-teller and writer. He nails this mystery without any of his trademark horror or supernatural touches. I would eagerly read ANYTHING he writes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am only in the second chapter and yet I am sucked in once again by Kings work. His ability to find what makes each of his characters take root from the start is amazing. 'The devil is in the details' is an old phrase but it never holds truer than when I pick up a King story. Thank you, Mr. King, for what you have done once again to perfection.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I believe I'm in the second chapter, though I cannot be sure because I lost track of a couple of things while I was reading: eating, time, my place in the book. I can say for certain that the book is entertaining and, from the looks of it, on its way to becoming one of my favorite King books.
TKSayers More than 1 year ago
No spoilers! I finished this book in a marathon overnight reading session, interrupted by only a four-hour nap before I got back into it. (Thankfully my husband is also a reader and fully supported my endeavor). For those who avoid Stephen King because they don’t like horror novels, never fear – this one isn’t a horror novel. There are some gory and gruesome scenes, but they’re human-inflicted, not supernaturally-inflicted . Mr. Mercedes is more a detective thriller novel, if I had to classify it under a specific genre. (For me, the genre is “Stephen King” and that’s good enough for me – I love the man’s writing no matter what section of the bookstore each new release ends up in). A brief synopsis, for those unfamiliar: Mr. Mercedes tells the tale of a cat-and-mouse game between recently retired detective Bill Hodges and the “perk” in one of his rare unsolved cases - the Mercedes Killer, Brady Hartfield. In the early morning hours of April 10, 2009, hundreds of people are lined up outside an auditorium waiting for a job fair to begin when a Mercedes plows into the crowd. Eight die; many more are injured. The driver escapes. Bill Hodges, along with his partner, was the detective who investigated the case, but Hodges retires before the case is resolved. Depressed, lonely, and suicidal, one day he receives a letter in the mail. This letter is from the Mercedes Killer, and suddenly Hodges finds a reason to live again – to hunt down the man responsible for the deaths of those desperate job seekers before he can kill again. The killer is introduced early in the story, a very disturbed – and very careful - man named Brady Hartfield who lives with his alcoholic mother. Another case where “the monster walks among us,” his coworkers (he has no friends) don’t suspect that the man they see every day is in fact a cold-blooded killer who’s already planning his next big event. Brady wants to up his personal body count, and is willing to die to do so. But first, he wants to bring Hodges down, either by driving him to suicide or, failing that, to kill the retired detective himself. Hodges must determine the identity of the Mercedes Killer and stop him before he kills again – without being killed himself. Stephen King is the master of suspense, and in this novel proves that he doesn’t need malevolent ghosts or evil vampires or telekinetic teenagers to keep the reader flipping the pages. I was hooked from page one, and was once again amazed at King’s ability to tell a captivating story that draws the reader in. King is great at dangling small little hints and tidbits of information to the reader, giving you just enough that you HAVE to keep reading to find out the rest of what happened. Brady Hartfield alludes to other incidents that occurred in his life, but the full story isn’t provided until much later in the book. (I couldn’t go to bed until after I’d reached that point in the novel. I just couldn’t – I HAD to find out the whole story). The point-of-view shifts between Hodges and the killer, a technique that in the hands (keyboards?) of less capable writers can be confusing. King makes it look easy. The reader is “treated” to a front-row seat into the life and mind of the demented Hartfield, who obviously could have benefitted from some strong anti-psychotic medication. It’s also terrifying how realistically the character is portrayed (I was reminded of Ted Bundy in particular, with his surface charm that fooled so many people for so long). You may never look at your neighbors and co-workers in quite the same way again. One line in particular struck me as I was reading this novel: "He returns his attention to her, a woman in her mid-forties who's not afraid to sit in bright sunlight." It’s a simple line, but to me it highlights King’s talent at observing life and using those observations to SHOW his characters instead of just telling us about them. Sure, he could have said “He saw that this forty-something woman is obviously confident in herself and her appearance,” but instead he takes something that all women past the age 30 or 35 know – that direct sunlight does nothing to improve the appearance of older skin – and uses that to show us the character’s poise and self-confidence. It feels almost sacrilegious to say anything negative about a Stephen King book, but… the foreshadowing in this one was a bit heavy-handed at times. Worse, there were also a couple of instances where it was flat-out misleading (in my humble opinion). Without giving too much away (I hope), here’s a for example: if it’s said that a character is going to regret an action or a lack of action later in the story, then that action/lack thereof should be significant and have a major impact on the development of the rest of the story. Instead, a couple of times those bits of foreshadowing were just half-lies without much importance to the story, and never really came to fruition. I feel like they were placed in the text only to keep me reading. It worked, but I feel just a little bit betrayed by the whole thing. That being said, it’s still without a doubt a five star book, and I’ll still gladly sacrifice another night of sleep when Revival is released in a few months. Finally, after (or while) you’re reading this one, make sure you check out Under Debbi’s Blue Umbrella – there’s not a whole lot there right now, but it’s a neat little add-on, and I’m curious to see if more is added to it after more people have had time to finish reading the novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am past half way through the book and have liked it so far. Not too bad of an opening for Mr. King's trek into detective novels. Although there is no supernatural stuff in it, Mr. King still delivers certain aspects of story lines that only he can. I would highly recommend this book. I enjoy all sorts of crime and mystery novels by various artists and if Mr. King decides to write another book in this genre, I will buy it right away.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you enjoyed Joyland and 11/22/63 then you will love Mr. Mercedes.
MrsRedditAll More than 1 year ago
I am also a Constant Reader and have been since I was 12. I get that the crux of my addiction/love/faithfulness is the vibe from each story. Picking up a SK book is like listening to a comfortable accent or savoring the flavor of your favorite dish....you just crave it with anticipation and nothing else will suffice. In-between his books I read others...when what I really want is Pad Thai and only have funds for a PB&J. You know? I'm not hungry anymore, but I can't wait to get my hands on some Pad Thai.... I don't know how I feel about this latest book. There was something missing. It kinda felt like watching an episode of Criminal Minds or something. I get that not every book gets to be a tome of character development, and maybe I'm just spoiled that way. Its not that it was a bad story, it just didn't feel like a SK story. A decent sit-by-the-pool time-killer. Bring your own PB&J.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not your typical Stephen King. If you are looking for horror fiction this is not it. Excellent book. Very suspenseful, Interesting characters and a fantastic plot. What makes this book scary is knowing that there are people like Mr. Mercedes out there. Definitely a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Finished most of the book this weekend.  Excellent story - a page turner.  As always, well developed characters and vivid details that draw you in to the story.   A little more saucy than previous books, with a little rougher language, more slang, and more items/topics that some may find objectionable - especially one of the villain's relationship's is disturbing.  I definitely see Jim Carey playing the villain in a movie version. Would read a second time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Now, I can get some sleep.....maybe. You will love his quirky characters. He is the master of making you love the people in his stories. Even the sick mo-fos. He drives you through the action like you are holding on for dear life in the back seat of a Mercedes - hell bent. What a ride, Mr. King! Thank you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thank you Stephen King for another fantastic read! Not the typical King book in that this was a pretty straightforward mystery read. It was, however, written by the master of suspense and he does it beautifully. For those who prefer the more paranormal reads by King, this may not be for you. This is one of his more realistic reads -- though truly frightening in its own way. King is a master at creating bad guys whether they are "real" people or maybe not of this world. This is the story of a retired cop trying to solve one of the few cases that was unsolved when he left the department. It is a great thriller with a terrific cast of characters, including a teenage boy that is full of humor. It is a fantastic read that kept me on the edge of my seat to see if they could catch him in time. Loved it! I must take just a moment to address the comments of certain reviewers who have the audacity to call Mr. King a "racist" because one of his characters uses the "N" word. Don't know if you people have ever written something actually worth reading, but it is called character development. King was giving you an idea of who his killer is. Part of who he is is a stereotypical bigot! What better way to convey that then to use that horrible word? To actually presume that King is a racist because his bad guys are bigoted............?????? Listen people, 2 + 2 does NOT equal 5!!! If that kind of stuff bothers you, please do not read any more of his stuff so I do not EVER have to read one of your reviews again -- K? I like to know who I am reading about. If he is a bigoted a**hole, then I don't think he uses the words "African American" to describe a person of color. You are SUPPOSED to not like that character!!!!! It is a fictional story with fictional characters, and I personally LOVE the character development that Stephen has ALWAYS had. Well, enough of my rant........... Thank you so much for another sleepless night Mr. King. Once again, I could not put it down. Can't wait to see what is coming out of that brilliant mind next! -- SPeeD
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good read. King writes a detective novel thats as good as his horror stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down. Enjoyed the characters, became engrossed with the plot, thrilled with the plot twists. Stephen King remains my favorite storyteller.
RazorlinePress More than 1 year ago
11/22/63 part 2? The novel starts off with an great premise—a killer drives a Mercedes into a crowd, kills 8 and maims several others, and mysteriously gets away. The retired detective who had been assigned to the case gets a letter from the killer, taunting him, trying to goad him into the suicide the former cop has already been considering. But he only draws the former lawman out of his depression and sends him in pursuit. The Good The writing is great. Vivid characters and a nice amount of foreshadowing. I found myself realizing certain things were going to happen and dreading when they eventually came. The banter between the detectives was refreshing. I even liked Hodges and his teenaged neighbor (his name escapes me at the moment). The whole thing had a moment-by-moment, Law & Order feel. The Bad The bad guy. I understand the necessity to have clear delineation between good and bad, but the bad guy was over-the-top bad. I’m not objecting to the use of the ‘n-word’, but there was a ton of it when he referred to anyone black. It makes me feel like a fuddy-duddy to write it, but for me, that was too much. I would have gotten some just to make it clear this killer was a racist too, but sheesh. Also, this story was very reminiscent of 11/22/63. It just had a feel of pursuing the killer who always seemed just out of reach. I did like the story, actually, a lot, but it never seemed to become its own entire story. Maybe because that book is just so fresh on my mind, but I find myself wanting to go back and listen to that again (I’ve already listened twice), but it would feel pointless to listen to this book a second time. And How Did I Feel About That… I liked this story, despite the bad. King’s writing alone and incredible ability to set a scene and a mood really carries this beyond just being rehash of another, superior novel. If you read it, you’ll like it, but you’ll appreciate it more if you read it before 11/22/63. Gerald Rice Author of Where the Monsters Are
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not his usual genre, but it is still well written and hooks you in. Great villain
PhotoGirlSS More than 1 year ago
Fantastic, as expected.
JonnahZKennedy1 More than 1 year ago
Below average for sure. Mr. King has infatuated me for a while now with his spellbinding fiction and has gone as far as influence my very own fiction, and for this matter, whenever I new book of his comes out I always manage to get excited. But, with this volume of work, I've been highly disappointed. There is a philosophy that Quentin Tarantino believes in, and that is that as directors age (some of them at least) become not better, but worse as years come to pass, this is why he plans to only make 10 films, and is nearing that limit; his only exception to come back would if he really had a good enough story that he just had to get out, otherwise, 10 is 10, 10 is done. For this matter, I must unfortunately bring this philosophy to authors. Stephen King has produced over a hundred stories in his life time, and will likely, one day, be considered a kind of modern classic of his kind, but to be sure, his most recent work has been, of course, below average. Joyland might've been the last modern work of King's that I enjoyed, and that's because it resonated with me as my brother had recently died, and the novel carried with it a deep sentimental value and moral that I needed to push through that death. Mr. Mercedes is what King likes to call his first hard-boiled detective story, and I wish that it was his last as well. It begins like any King novel, great premise, but not so much like all of King's novels, it quickly falls apart: repetitive, dull, and wholly one dimensional, none of the characters were truly worth my time, and I ended up not finishing the book because of this. Hodges was boring, Brady was cutout villain who King desperately wanted to be his Anne Wilkes of this generation of stories, but could not bring it up in a good way; Jerome was another character that he cut right out of many of his other novels, barely changing the formula at all to make Jerome an interesting role. It was a drag pushing through all the constant references to social media and the qualms of the 21st century for a 60 year old man, especially since it wasn't done in a tasteful way at all, it was just there to be there rather than serving a kind of commentary, and I know that commentaries are not wholly King's style, but at least when he made references to things in reality, he was not so overt and heavy handed with it. Overall, I can't say that I will be looking out for Finders Keepers when it comes out next year: not even to complete my King collection, at least not now, maybe later when I really build up the strength to stomach this one, but for now I can live until the next story (which will hopefully be neither a sequel, as King is beginning to remind me of Hollywood as he tries to pull at sequels and standard stories to sell his work, nor a story like this one, but a new classic).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stephen King's writings never leave you dissatisfied. This one is no different.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not his usual supernatural book but very good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this novel because it is my favorite type of thriller without the King-like gruesome details!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a huge SK fan and had to get this one to read. I was intrigued with the description as it isn't a horror thriller that is standard from SK. I enjoyed this one as much as any other story from him. Nice change!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read a lot of books, but I will simply say that this was the best book that I had read in a very long time...completely gripping...I just passed the book onto my son that hasn't read in years and wanted a good book to read...he loves it as well...thank you, Mr. King for a fantastic reading experience. :)
Zenbion More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this story. Stephen is a premier writer of our time and I hope he does more in this genre. Strong characters and a plot that moves along nicely made this a fun story that kept me turning the electronic pages. John Albion - Beyond Fate