The journey through all of Stephen King’s books continues, this time it’s the turn of The Outsider.
When an eleven-year-old boy is found murdered in a town park, reliable eyewitnesses undeniably point to the town’s popular Little League coach, Terry Maitland, as the culprit. DNA evidence and fingerprints confirm the crime was committed by this well-loved family man.
Horrified by the brutal killing, Detective Ralph Anderson, whose own son was once coached by Maitland, orders the suspect to be arrested in a public spectacle. But Maitland has an alibi. And further research confirms he was indeed out of town that day.
As Anderson and the District Attorney trace the clues, the investigation expands from Ohio to Texas. And as horrifying answers begin to emerge, so King’s propulsive story of almost unbearable suspense kicks into high gear.
Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy but there is one rock-hard fact, as unassailable as gravity: a man cannot be in two places at the same time. Can he?
Mystery and suspense, two ingredients that make a crime thriller a success. In The Outsider, King has served the reader with a hefty dose of both. He pulls you into this novel, presents a mystery with so many possibilities, you can’t turn the pages fast enough to reach the plot conclusion. By the midpoint of this novel, you’ll have so many theories and explanations as to how a man can be in two places at once, your head will be spinning – you’ll formulate and reformulate, and that’s what makes this novel so interesting.
The character creation is spot on, those you like, and those you don’t, all with the ability to evoke some kind of feeling in the reader. It’s always a pleasure to discover the characters in King’s novels, because you get to know them so well, you view them as real people; this is what creates the emotion that makes a reader passionate about a book, what keep you returning to books by said author. In this one, you’ll also question the rights and wrongs of the characters – should Detective Ralph Anderson have done what he did, would the knock-on effect have been different?
It’s been said many times that King writes great books, but struggles with endings. This is not true of all his books, but if you are a Constant Reader, you’ll start to see this pattern occasionally. In The Outsider (and in his most recent publication, The Institute) the pacing of the novel drops drastically in the last 70 or so pages. Of course, this is reader opinion, and it’s not to say the ending of this novel isn’t good [because it is!] more that the change in momentum is so noticeable, you begin to see that this statement about endings has merit. To put a positive spin on it, King has built such great suspense, thrilled your mind, captured you full attention, has you loving and hating the characters, how could any ending deliver, live up to all that come before? King is simply winding you down after getting you so worked up!
It’s worth noting that this novel has spoilers for the Bill Hodges Trilogy. Both this novel and the trilogy share a central character, so it’s highly recommended you read the trilogy first. This novel isn’t a continuation of the story, and can be read independently, but if you have this novel and the trilogy on your reading list, start with the trilogy.
Despite the slower-paced ending, this novel is so worthy of your time, it’ll thrill and excite, disturb and engage! Some of the towns in this novel are fictional, but such is the power of King’s imagination, that you’ll be looking to locate these places next time you see a map of the US!
The Outsider = highly recommended!
Find a list of King’s entire backlist, including my reviews, here.