Stephen King has been publishing books for a long time. Carrie, his first novel, was published on April 5th, 1974. Here we are forty-four years later and he’s just published the Outsider. I love seeing the growth in King as an artist and a writer, and I believe the Outsider demonstrates his evolution quite plainly.
The Outsider is classic king with elements of the supernatural and great characters. It’s also a very unique take on the crime-thriller genre novel. The first half of this novel focuses on an investigation into family-man and community hero Terry Maitland. When detective Ralph Anderson arrests Coach Terry at a well-attended little league game, he sets a chain reaction into motion that’s shocking, horrifying, and speaks of true human nature. The community turns on Terry because of the crime he’s been arrested for. Innocent until proven guilty only matters in a court of law, but that old maxim doesn’t hold much weight in a small, tightly-knit community. You can’t blame the concerned parents, foaming at the mouth, after all, Terry was arrested for the rape and murder of an eleven-year-old boy.
The novel jumps between multiple points of views. In the beginning, we see through Terry’s eyes as he deals with being accused of something heinous. We see through Ralph’s lens as he conducts an investigation that makes Terry look very guilty indeed; there are multiple eyewitnesses and plenty of incriminating circumstances. Ralph thinks Terry might just get the death penalty.
What makes this novel so exceptional is the mystery. After we learn about all of the evidence against Terry, we learn a piece of information that seemingly contradicts all that evidence. As a reader, we’re faced with a paradox; an impossibility of truths that run contrary to one another. This element is very well handled and it’s a unique take on the procedural crime-thriller. As far as I know, King has never written a novel like this. It was really fun to read and I’m excited to see what he writes next.
I enjoyed the Outsider but it’s not my favorite novel. I feel it got a little bit weaker towards the end, but I still read it very quickly. It’s highly entertaining, you’ll find yourself engrossed in the impossible circumstances surrounding the murder of an eleven-year-old boy.
Most of all, I appreciate the Outsider for its originality and for how bright and detailed the characters are. I liked just about every character outside of the ‘bad guys.’ The protagonists are all rich, flawed, yet imminently likable. I also feel King did an outstanding job portraying the terror of facing a mob. I was in a riot once, on the wrong side of the crowd, and it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced. I feel King did a wonderful job of capturing the unruly, savage nature of the mob mentality.
There’s a big twist in this one but I won’t reveal anything about it, you’ll have to read the book to find out.
I recommend this book to any fans of Stephen King, obviously, but also to any fans of procedural crime thrillers who think they’ve seen it all. I bet you haven’t seen the Outsider.