The Outsider by Stephen King
Terry Maitland is a normal guy from Oklahoma. He’s married with two young daughters and is the local Little League coach. He’s a popular and well-known person in a small town. This makes it all the worse when an eleven-year-old boy is found murdered and violated in a local park. Parts of the child have been eaten. Gruesome, ain’t it? Before the cops, led by Detective Ralph Anderson, get their forensic results, they know the identity of the sadist responsible. Multiple local people all saw Terry Maitland with the child just before the murder and after, when the Coach was covered in blood.
Ralph Anderson, with the connivance of the District Attorney, decides to effect a very public arrest during a Little League game. Maitland is humiliated, as is his family. The town look on and, before too long, have also found their sporting hero guilty of the heinous crime. It’s a mistake.
As Terry Maitland tries to clear his name, his predicament becomes much worse when fingerprints and DNA taken from the scene, match his. It appears as if there’s no way out for him. As far as Ralph and the DA are concerned, he’s guilty and that’s it. At this point, Rebel Voice must inform you that there will be spoilers.
Unfortunately for the crime-fighting duo, video footage and infallible witness testimony emerges that proves that Terry Maitland was somewhere else when the abduction and murder took place. Apparently, Maitland was in two places at the one time. Thus forms the basis for this fantastic thriller from the master of story-telling.
Events take an even more terrible turn when the young victim’s teenage brother decides to take the law into his own hands. During a prisoner transfer, he manages to shoot and kill Maitland before being gunned down by a stricken Anderson. Needless to say, Maitland’s wife, Marcy, is not pleased. Her husband, who she always believed to be innocent, is dead because of the incompetence of the authorities. Even Ralph is having serious doubts about Maitland’s guilt. Yet the DNA doesn’t lie. So how was the Coach both there and here?
When Anderson sits down with Marcy’s lawyer, Howie, and the ambulance chaser’s own private detective, Alec, they all agree that there is something strange going on, but no one wants to come out and suggest what some are thinking, namely that there might be a supernatural element at play in the case. Anderson, in particular, is determined to find a logical and rational explanation for the anomaly. It’s Jeannie, Ralph’s wife, who finally convinces her stubborn husband to accept the possibility that the solution to Maitland’s double-up lies outside of his normal experience. It’s at this point that the story merges nicely with King’s recent trilogy of Mr Mercedes.
It was in 2014 that King published the first instalment in this fine trio of books. It was followed in June, 2015 with Finders Keepers, with the final chapter, End of Watch, being released in June, 2016. One of the central characters in that series was Holly, a middle aged woman with OCD and a lack of confidence. Holly’s exploits in the stories have since helped her and she now co-runs a detective agency in Ohio. As it happens, the investigation into Terry Maitland also finds itself in that state. Holly is contacted by Alec and employed to look into the links.
Luckily for all concerned, Holly’s previous experience has opened her mind to the possibility of both preternatural and supernatural occurrences. With this information, she is better equipped to look into what has taken place in both Ohio and Oklahoma. In both she finds similarities which further exonerate Terry Maitland, much to his wife’s great relief. When Holly goes to Oklahoma to present her findings, the group are less skeptical than she thought they would have been. Soon, a Scooby Gang is formed to get to the bottom of it all, and the action heats up.
Holly, Ralph and co. come to the conclusion that there is another actor in the drama of Terry Maitland’s final weeks. They name this creature The Outsider. All evidence suggests that the humanesque life-form can change itself to assume the physical characteristics of anyone it comes into bodily contact with, if it gets a sample of their blood. Terry was unfortunate in that when visiting his father in an Ohio rest-home, he ran into the creature which was at that time in the guise of an orderly, later accused of raping and murdering two young girls locally. The Outsider selected Terry as his next persona-victim.
Back in the current timeline, the creature moves to transform into its next doppelganger, a man who met with the fake Terry Maitland, cutting him in the process. The gang get their asses into gear and go on the hunt. Fortunately, The Outsider cannot change quickly and is vulnerable during the transition. This buys our heroes enough time to find out where it’s hiding. Ralph, Holly, Alec, Howie and Yuno, a state trooper also involved in the investigation, all set out for Texas in pursuit. It makes for a great ending to a wonderful tale.
The Outsider is typical Stephen King fare in that it’s an original and gripping read. Although the story focuses upon the normality of police work for a large part of the book, it then dives sweetly into the weird. The reader is lulled into a false sense that The Outsider is going to be a normal, i.e. non-supernatural, book. Then the abnormal shit hits the fan and readers breath a sigh of relief. King’s back. This change-over is helped by the link-up to the trilogy previously mentioned. Rebel Voice is a big fan of those authors who do this. A great series is always worth bringing up again. King did this successfully with Dr Sleep, a 2013 sequel to his hit, The Shining, 1977. That’s quite a gap but all the better for it.
In Holly, Stephen King has created a character that he can use again and again, especially now that he has Ralph to assist her. The option is there for a new take on the Supernatural TV series,with both Holly and Ralph and friends hunting the creatures that exist in the US. Imagine the aforementioned Supernatural merged with The X-files. That’s where this can go now. It’s an enticing prospect.
Rebel Voice won’t give away the ending entirely. It’s better if you read it to find out for yourself. We will state that The Outsider is a very fine read, as you would expect from someone who should get a Nobel Prize for Literature without further ado. It’s well plotted. The characters are strong, memorable and consistent. It’s also typically brave in that King doesn’t shy away from the unusual or macabre. He writes for himself, not for the critics. Rebel Voice respects him greatly for this.
Sult scale rating: 7.5 out of 10. This is a recommended read from the King. It will grab you by the bollocks, or not, if you are female, unless you are trans in which case it will grab you where your bollocks used to be, and hold you tightly until you finish (the book). It blends characters from two separate story-lines into the one tale and, in doing so, has made provision for a further extension of the Dr Mercedes series, as well as creating a new one for The Outsider. Read this and tell us what you think. We’re interested.
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