Outsider: Stephen King book review


Adam Galliano, The Pathfinder

* Spoilers ahead*

I have always found that the true measure of whether or not a book is “good” has been its ability to entice me to want to pick it back up when I finish a chapter. Not only that but sometimes those types of books have you thinking about what the characters are going to do or what they did, what might happen and why.

Those novels that draw you in and keep you close until the story has ended, those are my kind of reading.

With books I sometimes get this rare attachment. When I open a new novel for the first time and in a beginning couple of chapters, I have become so enthralled with the writing that it stays with me for a while. Sometimes it takes until the ending to fully grasp the entirety or the scope of the book, and when I am finishing the epilogue, everything just clicks.

The novel that I have just completed was captivating from the opening chapter until the last pages of the conclusion. This book kept me with it and gave a little bit of itself to me you might say. This book is Outsider by Stephen King.

The story begins with the disturbing and grisly murder of a young boy, and the ensuing chapters focus on the destruction and pain that the murder causes a small town of Flint City, Oklahoma.
While everyone knows everyone in the small town, police quickly discover the identity of the murderer (or who they believe the killer to be) and arrest him.

The man, Terry Maitland, is the local high school English teacher and the Little League coach.
The beginning chapters focus on the police procedures and how sometimes when things look very transparent and seem like all of the questions are answered and that the case is open and shut, we find out that, in the world of Stephen King, this is rarely the case.

In this story, the police have eyewitnesses that place Maitland at the crime scene and multiple witnesses around the town who interacted with Maitland around the time of the murder, and all had damning evidence against Maitland.

His DNA and fingerprints are everywhere at the crime scene, so when the head detective from Flint, Ralph Anderson finds out the suspect is the same man who coached his son’s Little League team. With the disturbing and gruesome nature of the crime. he becomes emotionally invested and focuses his attention on proving without a doubt that Maitland is the killer.

The only problem? Maitland has an airtight alibi putting him a few states away at a literary conference with multiple firsthand witnesses and even a television interview.

The book asks the question: how is it possible to be in two places at once? And if it is not possible, who killed the little boy and destroyed a town?

With only the flair that King can bring to a suspenseful novel, the twists and turns that flow around this novel are compelling and intriguing.

I can tell you from my firsthand understanding that up until the final few chapters, I really could not say who did what during the novel. King had me guessing the entire time, and I guess this is what I mean about a little ownership.

Although I am certain there are no preconceived ideas of giving up his entitlement to Outsider, and no contracts have been drafted, no royalties are coming my way.

But I do believe that, on some level, when I opened this book and read thought the first couple of chapters and I started creating connections with Anderson and Maitland, I began to understand their who’s and why’s. I began to become familiar with them.

I began to “solve” the case on my own in my mind, looking for the who’s and why’s on my own. Of course, by the time I completed the book, I found that I was incorrect in many ways, but that is not the point is it?

The novel was broken down into different parts, beginning with the crime itself and the ensuing criminal investigation. As we delve further, we begin to see holes in the case and questions arise as to if the police do have the right man in custody. The third section is the revelation about the murderer and the challenges faced in bringing the killer to justice.

First published by Scribner press in 2018, this King novel is a continuation of a recent series of crime procedural novels focusing on the character Bill Hodges and King’s trilogy (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, End of Watch).

Those books share the story of aging and recently retired police detective Hodges and how he is drawn back into a world of crime and suspense by an unsolved murder.

During the events from those books, another major character is introduced, one Holly Gibney, an introverted and semi-neurotic woman who develops a kindred relationship with Hodges and assists him in solving the case.

In Outsider, we find that the events of the Hodges trilogy are a few years past and that Hodges has passed away from pancreatic cancer.

Gibney has taken the mantle of a private investigator (after learning the business from Hodges before his death) and is contacted through an investigator to assist with the case.

As Gibney has seen and experienced things that can be difficult to explain (a’ la Stephen King every day), she takes an interest in the case and soon proves invaluable in assisting Ralph Anderson solve the crime and bring the perpetrator to justice.

In many of King novels, he creates connections, intertwining ideas and subtle nuances that sometimes make his extensive body of work seem like they all follow the same story or are set in the same world where characters can meet happenstance, and in Outsider, this is no exception.

In many ways, this book is a simple crime and punishment story, detailing some of the extremely emotional and troubling obstacles that criminal investigators face.

Crime, especially violent crime against a child, is a universally unacceptable thing. One can only imagine the turmoil some of these investigators face when dealing with the horrible and the unbelievable.

This novel reads like a whodunit or mystery novel, but when King places a human element to the victim, to the investigators, even to the accused killer Maitland, he puts readers on an emotional roller coaster that delves into the heart of unspeakable crime and how sometimes people will step up to do the right thing even if everything around them seems wrong.

In this instance, I am glad I got a little ownership of this book, and if you are looking for a good read to keep you on your toes or the edge of your seat, Outsider will be an exceptional choice for you. It was for me!