The Outsider

Posted: September 6, 2020 in Book reviews, horror
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By Stephen King

In Flint City Oklahoma a terrible crime has been committed. A young boy has been brutally raped and murdered, and Detective Ralph Anderson arrests popular teacher and little league baseball coach Terry Maitland for the crime. Ralph’s in no doubt that Terry did it. Eyewitnesses saw him lure the boy into a van, and saw him bloodied afterwards, not to mention the huge amount of forensic evidence placing Terry at the scene, including DNA and fingerprints.

There’s just one problem. There’s irrefutable evidence that Terry was in a neighbouring city when the crime took place.

How can one man be in two different places at the same time?

I’ve never read as much King as I should have, especially his earlier stuff, given he was doing for horror in the US what James Herbert was doing in the UK, but when I have read him my relationship with his work has at times been uneasy. I either love his novels, or I hate them. There never seems to be a middle ground.

Happily, The Outsider falls into the former category. This was a really enjoyable read and one that kept me gripped from the off. The first half functions purely as a police procedural, before it takes a sharp turn into something else entirely, which is good, because as much as I enjoyed the early stages of the book, for a while I thought this was just a straight thriller, and I was worried it was going to turn out Maitland had a secret twin brother who’d committed the crime. Thankfully, the explanation is much more interesting, and far more fantastical, and the novel shifts tone into something more akin to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with a band of plucky heroes seeking out the hiding place of a monster.

It isn’t perfect, it’s a trifle long for what it is, and the number of characters means some are more well-rounded than others, and sadly a couple seem to be there just to provide expendable targets for the bad guy, but some are more interesting, especially Private Eye Holly Gibney, a recurring character from some earlier King novels.

All in all, a great read, Yeah the monster isn’t exactly original but in King’s hands it hardly matters. Highly recommended.

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