- The Outsider.
- Stephen King.
- 496 pages.
- Thriller / Supernatural Thriller / Horror / Fiction.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
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?
Terry Maitland is well liked and respected within the community of Flint City. He is married with two young daughters, an English teacher and also a Little League and City League baseball coach. Terry is accused of the horrific and unspeakable murder of eleven-year-old Frank Peterson.
Everything points to Terry Maitland, everything. The police don’t even question him before arresting him, they are that sure that he is guilty and with the horror of the crime scene still haunting them, to make sure that it doesn’t happen again and to make an example that atrocious crimes like that won’t be tolerated they make a very public arrest of Terry, arresting him whilst he is coaching a City League baseball game in front of a packed stadium.
The case comes unglued, even with all the evidence against him, the irrefutable proof that he is guilty, Terry has an airtight alibi. Terry has his own irrefutable proof that he is innocent, that he can’t possibly be responsible for the death of Frank Peterson. It is an impossible crime that Detective Ralph Anderson must solve. One in which he must attempt to uncover the mystery and fit the pieces of the puzzle together as he tries to figure out the plausible answers to the conundrum that has presented itself, how can one man possibly have been in two places at once?
The first half of The Outsider is a top quality thriller and then, about halfway through the story alters course, changes direction and King imbues the story that has been unfolding with a supernatural twist. At first, it is akin to a glimpse, something that is seen out of the corner of your eye before later coming to the forefront.
I’ve read a few reviews and I can understand the grievances and why some people didn’t like the abrupt turn into supernatural territory. For me, I really liked the addition of the supernatural, the combination when done right can work extremely well and in The Outsider, I felt like it wasn’t just shoe-horned in for the sake of it and that by way of the folklore, the myth and the legend present that it was implemented really well into the overall story by King. The natural and the supernatural, the worldly and the otherworldly, the two world’s colliding, coming together, not fighting each other or warring but blending, merging and forming the story as a whole. Allowing the seamless transition from a thriller with an impossible mystery to solve into a supernatural thriller with an understated hint of horror.
There are lots of scenes throughout The Outsider that evoke a sense of place and that are powerful (like the devastating fallout and consequences for the Peterson family) and there is one scene that, in particular, I feel deserves a mention. That scene is the arraignment for Terry Maitland and the journey from the county jail to the courthouse, the pack mentality and the vitriol of the baying crowds who are out for Maitland’s blood seeps from off the pages and it is a cauldron waiting to boil over.
King is a master at characterisation. Whether the characters are the main characters, those with a smaller role to play in the overall story or, simply, those who appear for a couple of paragraphs before fading away the characterisation on display in The Outsider by King is stellar and they all feel like real people. Out of those included in the story, I really liked Detective Ralph Anderson, his wife, Jeannie, Lieutenant Yune Sablo, the investigator Holly Gibney and Lovie Bolton who is only a minor character but there was just something endearing about the dear old gal. For some of the characters, they will have to open their eyes and their minds to the possibility that, start believing that there is more out there than they realise, that there are evil and malevolent things not of this world and that the things that go bump in the night, the Boogeyman might really exist. In his search for answers, the investigation into the mystery of Terry Maitland seemingly being in two places at once will take Anderson from Flint City, Oklahoma to Dayton, Ohio culminating in the dusty bowl of Marysville, a small town in Texas.
The Outsider, for me, was a book that had a sense of alluring darkness to it, an unsettling feeling throughout, a tale of dark deeds and of a dark being. It was a book to savour, not a book to rush through but one to take my time with and to digest every page that I read. I found myself gripped to the story from the opening pages all the way through to the culmination of the tale and the satisfying ending.
With The Outsider, King has effortlessly woven together and combined the supernatural with a premier thriller to create an impressive tale.
Purchase The Outsider.
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