The Outsider by Stephen King came out in hardcover on May 22, 2018 in the United States. The book is the latest in a long line of King books that I’ve read, dating back to my first serious introduction to his writing with the four novellas of Four Past Midnight, which I read about 1990. Many full length novels and shorter works later, I consider myself sufficient fan to delve into at least one work every 12-to-18 months.
(The Outsider author Stephen King)
During an interview King had in support of The Outsider in May 2018 on Stephen Colbert, King brought up Erik Larson‘s novel Dead Wake. On the show, King spoke of the example of passengers of the RMS Lusitania whose lives were saved because of the chance encounter of seeking another passenger who had looked remarkably like another passenger also on board. This concept of having another person who looked like you inspired the thought that led to a central drama in The Outsider.
(A hardcover copy of The Outsider)
The story starts with a small town crime against a child. The small town police perform some preliminary investigation into eyewitnesses, forensics, and no interview of the prime suspect, a respected little league coach and family man. Aiming for maximum spectacle and community impact for his reelection candidacy, the small town sheriff has said little league coach arrested in front of a large gathering of spectators at a little league baseball game.
The community experiences strong senses of outrage over the crime as well as the suspected perpetrator. Getting a quality defense attorney involved reveals similarly ironclad evidence that, at the time of the crime, the coach was at a continuing education conference in the presence of hundreds of witnesses. How can this be?
(Paperback copies of The Outsider)
In getting to the answer of this question, I found myself speeding through the read to find out where the plot would go. The story kept elements of the traditional police procedural, including evidence procurement, lead generation, and pursuit. The story went about addressing the notion of two folks that look like one, or more specifically how one person can be in two places at the same time. As the tension grows, so does the creepy nature for how the answer will be resolved.
The Outsider entertained, kept me engaged, and did not drag on like I feared a book of this length might. The direction of the story wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, which is good from a whodunit. That the story went in a thematic direction that I anticipated with a resolution that I was expecting was somewhat of a disappointment. While entertaining, my sense is that this was not King’s best effort. My grade is 3.5-out-of-5 stars.
Matt – Sunday, September 16, 2018