Book Review: The Outsider by Stephen King

By Jordan Gerdes

So I bought this book the day it came out, May 22nd, 2018. It sat on my stack of books since then, and was forgotten in the back of my mind. Flash forward to January of this year, and HBO’s The Outsider premieres, adapting the novel. I watched the first episode and was absolutely hooked. So I tried something I never do.

I tried to read the novel alongside the show. This worked for about four episodes, because my amount of free time to read has been dwindling since entering my Masters program, and I managed to stay a bit ahead of the show. And then I hit a spot in the book, a little over halfway, and said “Fuck it.” I burned through the last half in the last few nights, unable to stop myself from uncovering the mystery at the heart of The Outsider.

The Outsider is Stephen King’s recent foray into crime thrillers. We saw this from Richard Bachman, his pseudonym, with Blaze(2007) and more recently with the Mr. Mercedes trilogy (2014-2016). The King of horror writes these detective novels, or more criminally based novels than supernatural, while embedding them with his element of horror somewhere in there.

The Outsider picks up with the discovery of a young boy’s body, mutilated both physically and sexually. The case is open and shut. They have witnesses who place the perpetrator, mild mannered Terry Maitland, at the scene of the crime, around town, and fleeing the scene. They have a box van with his fingerprints everywhere, they have DNA on the body. It’s a clear case that Detective Ralph Anderson feels confident about. They arrest him, publicly, in front of his team of little leaguers and the entire town at the championship game. But Maitland has an alibi. He has people who can vouch for him. People that are trusted. And he is seen on video, an hour away at the exact same time the crime happened. How can someone be in two places at once?

This is just the first of many twists in the novel that King channels Agatha Christie, winding a mystery so tight that your head begins to hurt. It is a deeply chilling novel, exploring the darkness that is child predators, double identities, and treads full bore into horror at numerous points. Everyone knows that I am a massive Stephen King fan, but as of late, he’s been hit or miss for me, seeming to lose that spark he had in his early career. But this one is a freight train, barreling down with no brakes. You have to take breaks every so often, if only to catch your breath. This one gets a high recommendation from myself, as even non fans of horror will find things to love here. Think Gone Girl meets True Detective meets The X-Files and you are getting warmer.

Check this out immediately.

Side Note: The adaptation on HBO is also one of the best adaptations of source material I have seen in recent memory. The show is exceptionally well done, but the book is even better.

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