mr. mercedes: screennames

mr. mercedes by stephen king

I was talking with Michael recently about what our screennames were, back when everyone used AOL instant messenger. Mine was raendrop316 and I thought it was really clever because my name sounds like rain AND it incorporated my first name and last initial. The numbers were just because I liked the numbers 3 and 16. Nothing clever there.

In Stephen King’s new book, Mr. Mercedes (kindle here), they don’t exactly go back to AOL, but the killer does reach out to a detective using an anonymous messenger service and usernames. And they are just as clever as my 13-year-old self.

The killer uses the merckill. You know, for the Mercedes Killer. The detective’s is kermitfrog19. You know, because his first name is Kermit.

Although the screennames might be a callback to old technology, the rest of the tech in Mr. Mercedes keeps up with the times. Many books eschew technology completely, either by setting the story in a different world or time, or just ignoring its use altogether (much like how on TV shows, everyone shows up at each other’s homes instead of giving them a call). It’s fun to see it used realistically and efficiently in Mr. Mercedes. Someone leaving their phone in their car leads to miscommunication, funeral arrangements can be made on an iPad, and a killer can IM just as easily as leaving an old-school letter for someone to find.

One of my favorite things about King is how his books echo real life. Maybe not in their plots (I hope you aren’t communicating with an anonymous killer, at any rate), but in small events that mirror the small events in your own life. Like getting mad at someone for sleeping through phone calls when you need them, or being embarrassed your hacked emails got sent to your colleagues, or making a screenname based off a nickname and some numbers you like.

I’m about halfway through Mr. Mercedes, and it has been a fantastic summer read. That is, if you like your beach reading about murder mysteries instead of a summer romance (though there’s a little bit of that, too). The boring realities of iPads and work emails don’t seem boring when King tells their story, and the characters are more relatable and realistic because of it. And if the “boring” parts of Mr. Mercedes are this fun, what does that say about the exciting parts?

the cuckoo’s calling parts 4 and 5


The Cuckoo’s Calling (kindle here) part 4 and 5 are combined because I accidentally finished it. I, well, wasn’t crazy about it. SPOILERS AHEAD. DEAD AHEAD.

Well, we found out the murderer. And I’m kind of annoyed about it. Making the murderer the person who hired the detective feels like a cheat and a gimmick, not a smart subversion of reader expectations.

Things did get a little juicier in the last parts. The pace picked up, and I read a little faster. Poor Rochelle is tossed over the edge, just like Lula was. Strike finally gets into some tough spots, even though one is with an elderly woman confined to a bed.

But the glimpse of celebs and some exciting detective work (I mean, a little bit at least) doesn’t make up for an ending (and middle?) that fell flat. I like an altercation with the killer as much as the next person, but why on earth would Strike, who is recently injured, has one leg, and has taken off his prosthesis, sit around his office and wait for Bristow to come do him in? I know he was a boxer, but what did he really expect to happen?

Continue reading “the cuckoo’s calling parts 4 and 5”

the cuckoo’s calling part 2


We enter part 2 of The Cuckoo’s Calling (Kindle here, my thoughts on part 1 here) to follow our heroes while they gather more clues. I actually feel more like I am in the board game clue than in a story. If security guard was in the wash room, and the boyfriend at the club, I propose Mr. Bestigui murdered Lula Landry in the drawing room with the candlestick.

As an editor/journalist/pretend police investigator, I like gathering clues and information. But as a reader, I’d like to get all of this info as the plot moves along or as characters develop. It seems like more talking than showing, more explaining than storytelling.

“Strike would have preferred Bristow not to intervene.”  See what I mean? Telling me what’s in his head is just so boring.

But since we spent all that time interviewing and clue gathering, let’s see what we know.

  • Lula has a friend from rehab named Rochelle who met with Lula on the day of her suicide/murder.
  • Lula had an on-and-off relationship with that dumb guy who wears a wolf mask to avoid the paparazzi because, sure, a wolf mask garners less attention.
  • Mr. Bestigui is mad about 200 roses being spilled in Deeby Mac’s apartment. If those roses don’t mean anything this is the biggest, most annoying red herring ever.
  • Lula’s driver is obsessed with fame and celebs, and he was not her driver the night she died.
  • The apartment security guard was away from his post when Lula fell.
  • Tansy Bestigui heard some yelling in Lula’s apartment. The police don’t believe she could have heard anyone–they clearly don’t live in a place where you can hear things through the vents.

What do you guys think? Have any bets on who the killer is? Are their big clues I’m missing? If you’ve finished, no spoilers please! See my thoughts on part 1 here, and keep reading! I’ll see you back here next week.

(I bought this book on my own and am not being paid to write about it. But I am a part of the Amazon Affiliates program, so if you buy through my links on Amazon, I’ll receive a little bit of money for it.)

the cuckoo’s calling part 1


It is a not so secret desire of mine to become a police detective. It is my back up plan, my alternate universe career, and the subject of quite a few daydreams. I can’t stop watching cop shows or reading murder mysteries. (And yeah, I know that’s not exactly how it works in real life.)

So I like a good detective story. I feel like I am reading about my imaginary colleagues. And though solving a mystery in a book isn’t at all like solving a mystery in real life, I’m pretty good at it. (Well, I’m not the worst at it.)

I have just finished part one of The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith J.K. Rowling (Kindle here). I can’t say I never would have read this book if it didn’t come out that Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym for Rowling (that secret didn’t last long, did it?), but I can say I didn’t hear about the book until that story broke. So I picked it up, along with thousands of others.

Continue reading “the cuckoo’s calling part 1”

past favorites: nero wolfe

So you’ve got your sunscreen on, your piña colada is cold, and you’re sitting by the pool. Now what?

This article I saw in the New York Times about different authors’ best summer reading experiences got me thinking of my own. Picking a beach read is an art, and one I’ll gladly devote time researching. Right now I’m reading Joyland by Stephen King–it’s good so far.

I like mysteries, and scary stories, and a good series. My favorite beach reads are the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout, and they can encompass all those things.


Continue reading “past favorites: nero wolfe”

odd thomas

odd thomas

Odd Thomas! How I loved your quirky characters, your heart, your ghosts, and your central mystery.

But let’s talk about your girlfriend. You know, Stormy? Your soul mate, your feisty partner who knows her way around a gun and isn’t afraid to use it. You have matching birthmarks and you’re ready to marry her after years of being amazed by her strength and her love.

So how do you show you love her, trust her, and respect her? You hide from her, Odd, and I don’t understand it.

Odd Thomas can see the dead. He speaks to them (though they don’t talk back), and he tries to help them so they can move on. This has often led him into dangerous situations and into a tricky relationship with the chief of police because many ghosts who find him in Pico Mundo are trying to uncover their murderers, who are very much still alive.

And in this first adventure with Odd in Odd Thomas: An Odd Thomas Novel by Dean Koontz (Kindle version here), he gets into some dangerous situations indeed. But Odd chooses to hide his extracurricular activities from Stormy. He doesn’t want to put her in danger, so he lies to her and tells her he’s fine, omits that his friend has been shot and that a killer (or killers) are on the loose. And I believe that in doing so, he put her in more danger than she would have been than if she were well informed and prepared.

I get not wanting to put your loved ones in danger–I am a human with a heart. But Stormy is not his child, or his dog. Stormy is a real life human who Odd is supposed to be an equal with in a loving relationship. And in hiding these truths from Stormy, Odd does her and their relationship a disservice.

He says he trust her and believes in her, but his actions don’t say that at all. He doesn’t trust her to make wise choices and be ready to face danger with him, so he keeps her out of the loop and out of his life.

We see this a lot in fiction, and maybe in real life too. Edward lies to Bella to get her out of danger when a rival vampire comes into town (yeah, it’s Twilight–stick with me). In the Fifty Shades trilogy, Christian lies to Ana to keep news of a bribe and kidnapping from her. Both of these men are lauded for their strength and protection of their women (bleh).

This is often held up as an ideal–that men are protecting women and that’s what you should look for in a perfect partner. But if my boyfriend/husband/best friend/anyone kept these things from me, I would feel betrayed and hurt. Together we should be able to find a way to handle the situation. I’m not saying send me to the front lines here (But yay! Women can do that now!) but I am saying women should be treated with respect–always, but especially in romantic relationships. We are not flowers who can’t hear dirty words, we are not weaklings who shrink from life, we are not passive participants in our relationships. I hope.

Where have we seen some really kick-ass women in modern stories? Katniss was pretty badass. Let’s see how it would go if Peeta was on the run and didn’t talk to Katniss about it. I daresay he’d have more to worry about if Katniss found out than from the murderers themselves.

Hermione, oh Hermione. She’s right there with Harry and Ron making plans and taking punches. They love her, and so of course they want her to be safe, but they respect her skills and her brains. They couldn’t have made it without Hermione, and they know it. (Not to mention Ginny, Luna, Mrs. Weasley, and Professor McGonagall.) (Interesting fact: the authors of Twilight, Fifty Shades, HP, and The Hunger Games are all women.)

And Stormy is (supposedly) one of the strong ones. She is outspoken, never shies away from Odd’s peculiar gift, and even helps him out of a sticky situation like a pro. And there’s other strong women and good relationships in Odd Thomas. The chief of police’s wife is right there by her husband’s side, discussing who’s on the loose, and she’s in his inner circle when he needs to talk about work, or probably anything else.

So I just don’t get it when it comes to Odd and Stormy. But I did love everything else about Odd Thomas. The characters are wonderfully weird and Odd is great in every other instance. It was a fun ride and a good mystery, and I will be reading more Odd Thomas for sure. Thanks to my sister for telling me to check it out!

I also wrote about Odd Thomas here during a screen-printing craft.

(I bought this book on my own and am not being paid to write about it. But I am a part of the Amazon Affiliates program, so if you buy it through my links, I’ll receive a little bit of money for it.)