The Outsiderby Stephen King Published 22 May 2018
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An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.
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 Outsider" Reviews
There was one rock-hard fact, as unassailable as gravity: a man could not be in two places at the same time.
Stephen King amazes me. Here, he has managed to turn a 300-page story into a 560-page story by leading us on a long-winded wild goose chase while waffling on about almost everything, but somehow, though it seems hard to fathom, I could not put this cracktastic shit down.
If you are thinking about reading this because you like mysteries and thrillers and have seen this in the latest mystery/thriller bestsellers: don't bother. It's not really for someone who's looking for old-fashioned mysteries. But if you're a fan of King's slow, meticulously-detailed climb to the creepy good stuff, lots of characterization that probably wasn't needed, and 200 pages that could have been cut but are compelling anyway - step this way.
It sounds like I'm being negative, but King is just his own brand. He drags things out, he goes on and on about minor plot points, and yet he manages to keep literally millions of readers hooked on his every word. I would wake up in the middle of the night to feed my baby and find myself reaching for this book and squinting at it in the darkness. And then not being able to sleep after.
The Outsider sets up a scenario that immediately piqued my interest - an horrific crime against a child (warning for graphic sexual violence); evidence all pointing to one man; said man has an airtight alibi putting him hours away when the crime was committed. So... what's the deal here? Is Terry Maitland an innocent man being accused of a terrible crime? Or has he constructed a perfect alibi for himself? And, if so, why did he leave so much evidence pointing to him?
I love how King taps into the minds of everyday people and families. He creates horror stories out of the mundane, out of small town people living small town lives, and out of questions we’ve probably all wondered about-- is there life after death? What if you could go back in time? And, in this case, what if all the evidence of a crime points to someone who couldn’t possibly have done it? What if you were accused of a crime you didn’t commit?
I want to stress again that this is a Stephen King book, and not your average thriller, so be prepared for some straddling of the line between our world and the supernatural. Also, a character from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy pops up here, which I wasn't expecting. I never even finished the first book of that series, but I didn't need to know those stories for this book to make sense.
Like most King stories, I had a whole lot of fun reading this. I mean, I say "fun", but I lost a lot of sleep over the creepy shadow man. King sure knows how to craft a perfectly skin-crawlingly eerie scene *shudders*
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I’ve been reading Uncle Stevie for about 35 years now, and there’s been plenty of peaks and valleys in my fandom. This time out he found a whole new way to disappoint me.
A young boy has been brutally murdered, and all the clues point directly at Terry Maitland. This is shocking because Terry is a happily married family man and all-around good guy whose coaching of youth sports has made him one of the most popular and respected people in town, and there’s never been the slightest hint of any kind of criminal behavior from him. However, with both forensic evidence and multiple witnesses there is no doubt that Terry abducted and killed this child so Detective Ralph Anderson has him arrested in the most public and humiliating way possible.
The problem is that there was so much evidence pointing at Terry that Ralph didn’t bother nailing down his whereabouts when the crime was committed, and Terry has an iron clad alibi that makes it impossible for him to be the murderer. Yet for every piece of evidence that shows that Terry couldn’t have killed the boy there’s another equally damning one that positively shows that he must have done it. How could a man be in two places at once?
The infuriating thing about this book is that the first half had a lot of promise. King seems to have been inspired by the Harlan Coben style of thrillers whose hooks generally revolve around circumstances that seem impossible. (In fact, Uncle Stevie even acknowledges this by actually having Coben himself be a plot point in the book.) And this works for a while as King builds up the scenario with an intriguing mix of clues and witnesses that both absolutely prove that Terry must be the murderer while also making it utterly impossible for him to have done it.
There’s a huge problem with that though. When Harlan Coben writes his books the resolutions are based in reality, not the paranormal. So for each one he has to come up with a plot that leaves you scratching your head and then provide a solution to it that’s satisfying. What Uncle Stevie did here is to create the puzzle part which he adds layer after layer to it, but then he essentially just says “Oh, yeah. It was a supernatural monster. And now here’s a completely different book about trying to catch it.”
You can certainly do a story that mixes police investigations with the unexplained. The X-Files is the obvious example of this, but that series would generally show us the weird stuff in the opening scene every week then they would try to unravel it for the rest of the episode. We all knew going in that the supernatural and aliens were on the table so there’s no point in spending time to make the viewer think there might be a non-fantastic answer even if Scully usually tried her best to find it.
Since this is a Stephen King novel with a red-eyed monster on the cover a reader should know from the start that something spooky is in the mix. Yet, he gives us absolutely nothing about that angle for the first half of the book. He plays it straight like he’s writing a regular crime thriller, and he put in so much time and effort on it that he actually managed to make me forget at times that the ultimate answer would probably be a ghoul of some kind. So it’s like he’s teasing us that there is some kind of Sherlock Holmes style solution to this puzzle, and I found it incredibly unsatisfying when the supernatural stuff showed up to explain it all.
The extra sad thing is that Uncle Stevie has done this plot before, and he did it better there. The Dark Half has a main character who is suspected of murder, there’s physical evidence showing he did it, and it’s only an airtight alibi that saves his ass. Yet, in that book we know from the jump what’s going on so it all flows together naturally, and it’s just one piece of a larger story rather than half a novel spent developing a mystery that is essentially not a mystery at all when you remember that you’re reading Stephen King.
The second issue I had with this is that this is linked to the Mr. Mercedes trilogy. I didn’t care for those books, and if I’d have known that this had anything to do with them I wouldn’t have read it. I thought that series was done so to have a character from them show up at the half way point here as a surprise and then play a major role in the proceedings felt like false advertising. Another irritating aspect is that (And this has spoilers for End of Watch) [spoilers removed]
At over 500 pages it’s also way too long with not enough happening except for a whole lot of yackity-yacking going on amongst characters. There’s a tremendous amount of repletion with people restating the facts about the initial problem of Terry being in two places in once, and then during the monster phase there’s endless jibber-jabber speculating about it. Dialogue has never been a particular strength of King’s, but all his worst habits are fully on display here so it’s extra bad that the book mostly consists of conversations.
I also found myself nitpicking a lot of stuff here. Now that he’s over 70 years old Uncle Stevie seems to struggle writing younger people these days. Terry is described as being under 40 yet at one point his wife is remembering how they used to listen to Beatles albums in his college apartment, and she idly wonders if John Lennon was dead by then or not. A guy who is 40 today was born in 1978. John Lennon was murdered in 1980. So Lennon had been dead for almost two decades by the time Terry was in college. That’s the musing of an aging Baby Boomer, not someone under 50.
Ralph also seems to be somewhere around 40 years old yet when he’s trying to figure out a restaurant name from a torn scrap of paper he has to go to his wife to have her run the internet search for him. I’m pretty sure that a detective whose job involves research and information gathering is capable of using Google. And it’s not even that Ralph is anti-tech or computer ignorant because he uses an iPad regularly through the book. Again, this seems like an older person’s way of thinking about the internet, not someone who would have been using computers since his first day with the police department.
I also found the main break that finally gets the plot moving toward the supernatural stuff to be highly unlikely. [spoilers removed]
King tried doing plain thrillers with the first two Bill Hodges books, but he struggled mightily with plotting them so he threw in the towel with the third one where he went full-on supernatural again. This one feels like he thought he had a great idea for another crime novel, wasn’t really sure how to resolve it, started writing it anyway hoping he’d figure it out, and then when he couldn’t he just threw up his hands and made it all about a monster. I won’t be reading another crime based book by him. Unless he tricks me again.
King has done it again! The last time I was this enthralled with one of his books was Finders Keepers. While I do read a lot, it is not often I find a book that I don't want to put down at all. In fact, the biggest selling point is that I am in no way, shape or form a morning person. Dragging myself out of bed is the greatest challenge of my day. But, I woke up early, without a alarm, when I had about 100 pages to go because I was so into it I couldn't stop thinking about it and wanted to finish it!
This is basically a combination of King's old school horror stories with his more recent mystery books (Bill Hodges trilogy). When you read it you might be surprised at how true this statement is. I will just leave that statement out there with no spoilers - you'll see!
Really, my only criticism of the book is the ending. It felt a little off, flat, and awfully convenient to me. However, the book as a whole was so awesome, it barely affected my enjoyment.
King fans rejoice! It's another great one. The master still has it!
The Outsider by Stephen King is a 2018 Scribner publication.
Classic, quintessential King-
An eleven -year old boy is found brutally murdered and strong evidence points to Little League coach Terry Maitland. Detective Ralph Anderson is particularly outraged and makes the fateful decision to arrest Terry in public, creating a media sensation in the process. But, as the investigation begins to unfold, doubts and alternative evidence make Ralph question Terry’s guilt. As the mystery deepens the horrible truth that emerges creates a heart pounding and tense race against time, and the ultimate good versus evil showdown.
“Reality is thin ice. But most people never fall through until the very end”
Now, plenty of people have reviewed this book, and King certainly doesn’t need any help from me in promoting his novels, I just had to add my own complimentary comments about this one. This book reminded me of why, when I was a teenager, I was always the first in line to buy a new SK novel, why I absorbed them as fast as possible, then read them again and again and again. King has a way of building a complex puzzle, while creating characters readers are sure to respond to, either in a good or a bad way, and then proceeds to scare the crap out of us. The action picks up right at the beginning, building and building, first as a standard mystery and police investigation, then segues into the stuff that will keep you up at night.
King is always funny, always a bit sarcastic, and likes to poke fun here and there, sometimes good naturedly, and sometimes with a more caustic tone, while also addressing serious issues from time to time without becoming preachy. His passages featuring fellow author Harlan Coben, was especially fun and entertaining. (Although, you may want to refrain from asking Coben if he knows who the killer is from the start, or if he figures it out as he goes along- I think that question has been asked and answered, and Coben could be weary of it. 😊)
King’s basic style is still working, is still relevant, avoiding the traps of standard formulas and clichés authors of his generation, who have clogged up the NYT bestseller lists for the past forty years, are prone to. However,as Karin Slaughter points out in her otherwise glowing review for the Washington Post-
“If you can accept that a contemporary man in his late 40s recalls quoting “Our Gang” with his kid brother instead of the Fonz or even Pee-wee Herman, you’re in for a hell of a ride.” LOL!
My only regret is that I did not realize Holly’s character was connected to the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, and I’ve been meaning to read those books for a long time. But, on the plus side, I feel more motivated to get started on it sooner, rather than later.
This book is will remind readers of why Stephen King is the master… and always will be.
This started off really good but it slowed down towards the end. I was happy there was some connection to the Bill Hodges series (which I liked a lot and recommend you read first since there are some spoilers here!) but I was overall underwhelmed.
Recommend it but it's not for everyone.
Lately I've been wondering if I'm not compatible with Stephen King's newer novels. I've really enjoyed working through his backlist, and I am here for all the 80's/90's old school horror and sci-fi, but the newer brand of SK and I just haven't clicked. I was sorely disappointed in Sleeping Beauties last year, so I was hesitant to pick up The Outsider immediately. After waiting a few months and giving the hype time to die down, I finally decided it would be the next pick on my unread shelf to dive into. Guys, I am SO glad I picked this up; The Outsider has given me faith in the new brand of King and the reassurance that it's ok not to click with an author's every piece of work.
POSSIBLE MINOR SPOILERS BELOW!
I had been warned ahead of time that this wouldn't be a straightforward crime novel, and I think that guidance helped me place my expectations in just the right place before embarking on this strange and fascinating journey. The book felt like it was divided into two separate stories, yet connected centrally in a way that flows and is understandable once you've read the book. Part police procedural, part old school horror, this book was entirely compulsive and satisfying. We begin with a beloved local father figure accused of a horrific crime (TW for graphic descriptions of child murder, sodomy, pedophilia, and desecration of a body), and I was pleased and a bit shocked at how well King transformed a seemingly straightforward investigation into a thrilling page turner. After some major plot twists, the characters begin to realize that something beyond the natural is at large, and I think this is where he lost some readers. (In most of the negative reviews I've seen it's been the supernatural aspect that was a turning point.) Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the inclusion of folklore and found this to be a fresh, new way to spin an old formula into something unique and memorable.
I don't want to say too much about the plot, butI did find it interesting how he loosely tied this to the Bill Hodges trilogy. I would love to see this as the beginning of a new trilogy featuring [spoilers removed] and Ralph, so if the Stephen King angels are listening, this is my formal plea. Initially, I was going to give this 4 stars, but the fact that I finished this book days ago and haven't stopped thinking about it and fleshing the details out in my mind over and over proves that it was a 5 star experience for this reader. I'd love to chat about this one with some other folks who have read it!