Stephen King’s The Outsider has proven divisive with some fans, as it marries a lot of his more recent writing, specifically his work on the Mr. Mercedes trilogy (the first of which plays as a straight thriller), and his earlier work that delved into the supernatural.
I knew going in that there would be a supernatural bent to this one, but I wasn’t sure how it would play out. The first half is a straight murder investigation that then takes a twist for the horrific in the second half.
Terry Maitland is well known in the community of Flint City, and he has coached countless town’s sons in Little League. And according to witnesses, DNA and fingerprint evidence, he has brutally raped and murdered a young boy.
Ralph Anderson is the cop who draws the case, his own son having been coached by Maitland, and arrests Terry in a huge public venue, sure of the certainty of the case, and the need to publicly shame the man he believes he is a killer.
Maitland insists he’s innocent, that he would never do such a thing, that he wasn’t even in town. In fact he has an alibi. And it checks out.
So how could this happen? What is going on in Flint City, and has it happened before?
As Ralph gets drawn into the investigation the story crosses with the Mr. Mercedes universe when Holly Gibney shows up, and possibly, after some investigation, as come to a conclusion that may have a supernatural bent.
I’m more than fine with Holly showing up, I like her as a character and can relate to her. The only issue I had was then, as they pursue what they call the Outsider, Holly becomes the central driving force of the story, and Ralph settles in the role of partner, and though he is involved in the climax of the story, his character arc is really about the accepting of the reality that there is more to the universe than can just be seen and understood by the laws of man.
No matter the subject matter, I always enjoy settling in for a Stephen King novel, it’s like putting on a comfortable sweater, albeit sometimes a haunted or bloody one. There’s comfort in the way he doles out his stories, how his characters are allowed to breath, and share their thoughts, how dialogue can meander. There’s a reality to his creations that allow them to feel fairly realistic which allows us to hold on when the scarier, bloodier, and more horrific things happen.
This was a pretty enjoyable read, not my fave of his recent novels, but still fun to settle in for. I loved the addition of Holly to the story, and the nature and reality of the Outsider definitely fires the imagination.
King is still a master, and I look forward to diving into each and every one of his stories.