There are times when you never know anything. Blissful ignorance. Like driving peacefully down the road. Out of nowhere, you get blindsided. King always manages to do this with great élan in his books. The Outsider by Stephen King does not disappoint.
In a small town, Flint City, a young boy is found dead. His clothes have been ripped. His throat had been bitten off. The rest is just gruesome; I’ll leave it for you to read in The Outsider. As this incident shakes up an entire community, witnesses and crime scene evidence point to the little league coach, Terry Maitland. A man of good repute, a teacher and someone who has had access to little boys for years.
After a very public arrest under Detective Ralph Anderson’s team, there are a few interesting details that come to light. Terry was away from town. Rock solid alibi. And his colleagues can vouch for his presence. Both the defence and the prosecution are confident with the case. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get that far. Coach is killed on the footsteps on the courthouse. His dying confession is that he is innocent. He didn’t do it, he says to his wife.
Ralph is, beyond his duty, moved by this case since Terry has coached his son. He has had the opportunity to abuse his son. Yet, Ralph’s son stands firmly in Terry Maitland’s defence. Ralph’s wife, Jeanette, is his confidante and he discusses this case with her. Jeanette is the first person to even consider the presence of Terry Maitland in two places, far apart, at the same time. Only, one is the original Terry Maitland, the other is an entity that is not human.
After Terry’s death, there are plenty of questions left unanswered. And then there is Ralph’s conscience. To quell his own doubts and to assuage his guilt, Ralph ends up investigating the case. As he digs further into the case, an entire barrel of worms is opened up. As Ralph’s wife, Jeannie, says, “There is something very wrong with this, and the more you find, the wronger it gets.” Finally, Alec Pelley, who was helping Terry’s attorney, brings in Holly Gibney. Yes, the very same Holly Gibney from Stephen King‘s Bill Hodges books.
Eventually, investigations come to an end and good triumphs evil. Or rather humans defeat vile vampire-like creatures. I don’t know exactly what to write here, so that’s the best I can come up with.
TL;DR – now for those of you who couldn’t be bothered to read all of the words above, here’s what you really need to know. The Outsider is a ‘Stephen King’ book. It has everything that is usual – creepiness, grotesque crime, bloody messes, unimaginable villains, excellently logical thought flow from humans involved. And most importantly Stephen King‘s writing.
Despite the entire thrill The Outsider induces, I felt it could have been a few chapters less. King has always recommended keeping sentences short. Succinct. As he notes in his On Writing,
You may find yourself adopting a style you find particularly exciting, and there’s nothing wrong with that. When I read Ray Bradbury as a kid, I wrote like Ray Bradbury — everything green and wondrous and seen through a lens smeared with the grease of nostalgia. When I read James M. Cain, everything I wrote came out clipped and stripped and hardboiled.
Perhaps, not his fault after all that The Outsider felt a little lengthy.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars