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 a watertight 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…
Trigger warnings: murder, sexual assault, violence, gore, suicide.
I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews about this novel and most of Kings newer stuff to be honest but this kept me up till about 1am reading because it was so gripping. If you’re looking for a straightforward mystery or thriller novel then this is probably not the book for you, but if you’re familiar with Kings winding plots and focus on character development then I think it would be more enjoyable.
The novel is centered on the brutal murder and assault of a young boy which shocks the entire town of Flint. All evidence points to Terry Maitland, a celebrated Little League coach who is basically everyones best friend. However when he is arrested for the murder and word gets out, the whole town turns on him and he is subjected to endless amounts of vitriol. The police officer on the case Ralph Anderson and the prosecutor Bill Samuels think they have the case in the bag, then new evidence comes to light which seems to suggest Terry was in another city entirely when the murder took place. The mystery then begins; how can a man be in two places at once?
I loved the beginning of the book and the way the plot developed and was well paced from the very first page, it immediately drew me in and I was already trying to figure out the truth behind the mystery. King does such a good job at mixing the police procedural element of the novel with the more descriptive parts of the novel and it works so well to create a realistic and interesting story. With the witnesses accounts included, we get to see why the police are so convinced of Terrys guilt. It’s only because we as the reader know that Terrys innocent that we don’t suspect him, we have the benefit of dramatic irony here but if we didn’t then perhaps we’d think he was guilty too.
As well as having an interesting story and the pacing really working for me, I thought the various characters were likeable and well developed. I will say there were a lot of names and characters thrown at the reader at first and it took me a little bit to remember their names and figure them all out but once I had, I was invested and enjoyed reading the different character threads. I also liked that the book brings in Holly Gibney, a character present in Kings other books Mr Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch. It was enjoyable to read as all the characters band together to figure out the surreal truth behind the crime and the identity of the killer piece by piece.
I also liked that there were key moments where I honestly didn’t know where the story would go next. I’m a reader who likes to predict or guess what will happen next or how a book will end and I would say 8/10 times I’m on the right lines, but in Outsider there were a few specific moments which genuinely shocked me and I literally put the book down because I needed some time to process what the heck I had just read. And then I would quickly pick it back up because it was so addictive.
As well as this, I think King – as always- manages to explore the darker side of human nature here really well. At first the townspeople are horrified and can’t believe that such an upstanding member of their community could possibly have committed such a heinous crime but after the police publicly arrest him and make a show of it, they switch and become a hateful mob. I believe this is quite true to life as an accusation like this leaves a lasting impression, even if someone is proven innocent without room for doubt, there seems to be a cloud of suspicion surrounding them for the rest of their lives.
Overall, Outsider was an intriguing and thrilling novel which I couldn’t put down. I would thoroughly recommend it to fans of Kings work or readers who enjoy long and winding mysteries with unconventional turns along the way.
Until next time,