Book Reviews

The Outsider

Author: Stephen King
Published: May 22, 2018 by Scribner
Genre: Horror / Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Hardcover: 561 pages
My Rating: 3 1/2 stars

An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

The premise is simple. How can a person be in two places at one time? They can’t. Or can they? Eye witnesses saw Terry Maitland in the vicinity around the time of the boy’s murder, but Terry’s co-workers can also vouch for the fact that he was with them at a conference many miles away. And so starts the mystery. I think you know what you’re going to get with a Stephen King novel: he writes very good gore, very good suspense, and very good creepy, scary stuff. The way King builds this book, effortlessly shifting from police procedural to horror, and injecting enough shocks to keep readers on their toes the whole way through, is a testament to his storytelling.

“And I believe in A. Conan Doyle, who had Sherlock Holmes say, ‘Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.’ ”

I didn’t realize this at first, but technically this book is the fourth in his Finders Keeper series, which started with Mr. Mercedes. While the first three were really connected with the same characters and same villain, The Outsider really can be read as a stand alone. The only connection to the first three books, is one character, Holly Gibney. She’s the memorable, remarkable, oddball heroine of the Bill Hodges trilogy, but the plot, characters, villain are all completely different.

I loved seeing Holly again. She brings a humanity to the proceedings that’s a breath of fresh air. The entire cast of characters is well drawn and quite strong. Detective Ralph Anderson is a great leading man, and I loved his relationship with his wife Jeannie.

With this book, you have to be okay with the supernatural though. It doesn’t necessarily get heavy into that until the last 30% of the book. Detective Ralph Anderson is very resistant to believing in the supernatural, so he feels and says everything you’re thinking as a reader. This brings a relatability to the story.

My only complaint is that the book is 561 pages long! Couldn’t something have been trimmed?!

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