Monday, October 29, 2018

The Outsider by Stephen King

Reviewed by Kristin

Stephen King is a master of intricately crafted horror novels.  He is known for being an author who makes you shiver in your seat and peer into the shadows, just in case.  Now please understand, I don’t really like to be scared by my mysteries.  I hadn’t read a King novel in years, maybe not since I was a teenager.  But for some reason I checked out The Outsider audiobook, popped it into my CD player, and rediscovered the enjoyment of a spine-tingling tale.

When a horrifying crime rocks Flint City, Oklahoma, fingers are quickly pointed at Terry Maitland, a popular Little League coach and high school teacher.  Eleven year old Frank Peterson has been brutally violated and murdered, and several witnesses identify “Coach T” as the blood-covered man who came out of the grove of trees where the boy’s mutilated body was later found.  Detective Ralph Anderson quickly and publicly arrests Terry, starting a series of events which divides the town.  With witnesses, fingerprints, and DNA evidence, the case seems to be locked up tight.  But what about the witnesses who also swear that Terry was with them in a neighboring town at an English teacher’s conference—at the exact time of the murder?

Before long, more crimes are committed.  Could this be a serial killer?  A copycat?  How is the murder of Frank Peterson in Flint City connected to crimes in Texas, Ohio, or even further afield?

The driving force of The Outsider is the strong characterization.  King has published more than fifty books, weaving the threads of crime and horror together to create complex stories that dig deep into the human psyche.  His characters draw us into a world where horrible things happen, but a strong protagonist is also there to pursue justice.  One of the characters who really grabbed me in this King novel was Holly Gibney.  Holly is a private investigator who meticulously explores the whereabouts of suspects at any given time, and is willing to accept possibilities outside the range of “normal.”

King also keeps you guessing to the end:  Is the perpetrator a bad human, or something supernatural?  I kept thinking back to his early novel Christine, where the giant hulking car seemed to have a mind of its own.  (I remember nothing else about Christine, but some things just stick with you.)

Verdict:  Not my usual reading fare, but a very interesting foray into a spooky but real world where terrible things happen, but the good guys come out on top in the end.

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