Sunday, July 29, 2018

Review: The Outsider by Stephen King

Title: The Outsider
Author: Stephen King
Pages: 478
ISBN: 9781473676404
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: 22 May 2018
Genre: Horror / Crime
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

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?

The Outsider by Stephen King starts with the horrific murder of a young boy, seemingly at the hands of the local Little League coach, Terry Maitland. The abundant forensic evidence and eyewitness accounts are enough to convince the police that they have their culprit, but when incontrovertible proof meets ironclad alibi it becomes clear that everything is not as it seems.

Initially The Outsider seems like a pretty standard crime thriller, but just as the case is set to go to court it takes a decidedly dark turn and heads in a completely different direction than I thought. Something otherworldly is at work and the murder investigation morphs into a hunt for a mythological monster hiding in the shadows of perception and feasting on the fear and pain it inflicts.

Roughly midway through the novel there is a sudden and unexpected cross-over with the Bill Hodges trilogy as Holly Gibney, a private investigator and major character from that series, is called in to assist. (Having not yet finished the Bill Hodges trilogy there were some major spoilers, so if you haven’t finished the trilogy be warned!).

The investigating officer, Detective Anderson, clings to his belief in facts and empirical truth as he struggles to reconcile his beliefs with the existence of the supernatural.
“If we believe in monsters, in the supernatural, how do we believe in anything?” (p 331)
Holly, with all she has gone through, is the one that already knows that the supernatural is real and has to convince the others in order to prevent another child being murdered.
“A person did what a person could, whether it was setting up gravestones or trying to convince twenty-first-century men and women that there were monsters in the world, and their greatest advantage was the unwillingness of rational people to believe.” (p 304)
While I enjoyed Holly as character she completely overshadows the rest of the characters, in fact this might as well have been another instalment in the Bill Hodges series as Detective Anderson and the rest of the cast are relegated to supporting characters as soon as Holly arrives on the scene, making them somewhat disposable and redundant.

True to Stephen King’s style of drawing and colouring outside the borders the writing draws you in with a vivid sense of place and King compels you to care not only for the main characters, but also for those on the periphery as the aftermath of tragedy and loss ripple through the families and the community at large. This comes at a cost though. The pacing can be uneven and lags midway as things get bogged down, but then it picks up again as events are drawn to a claustrophobic, bloody conclusion. The ending is satisfying and definitely makes the journey well worth it. King can still bring the chills, and then some!

The Verdict:
The Outsider has a frighteningly fascinating premise that blends reality with the supernatural. Stephen King manages to still surprise and captivate with unexpected twists and turns. Despite some pacing issues this is still a very good read. Just be warned that you might want to finish the Bill Hodges Trilogy first before tackling this one to avoid spoilers. Recommended!

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

Thanks to Charlene from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

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