Every time a new Stephen King novel hits shelves, I get excited. I just can’t help it. I’m a fan. And while I don’t think everything King writes is a classic, I can tell you that, for me, The Outsider is one of his most gripping page-turners.
In the book, a horrible child murder has taken place in Flint City, and beloved Little League coach, English teacher, and family man Terry Maitland is charged with the crime. All the evidence points beyond a reasonable doubt – witnesses, DNA – until it’s discovered that Maitland has an indisputable alibi, and proof to go along with it. Before long, Detective Ralph Anderson, who makes a show of arresting Maitland on the baseball field in front of the entire town, is faced with the question, how can one man be in two places at the same time?
The Outsider feels like one of the most timely Stephen King books in the writer’s canon. We live in a world where innocent until proven guilty has pretty much been thrown out the window, usually at the behest of whoever can scream loudest on social media. There’s so much genuine bad in the world at the moment, it’s hard not to accept that people can and do evil. In The Outsider, the people of Flint City are quick to turn on Terry Maitland because of his public arrest, even though his actions are so antithetical to the man the city knew and loved. King explores these sentiments throughout the book, and it feels as though there’s a large part of him screaming out, “Mob mentality doesn’t work!” Assuming one’s guilt and the repercussions that can come from that weigh heavy throughout the pages of The Outsider.
Another theme that runs throughout is the idea of accepting the unreal. I’ve often thought what would happen if I encountered something unexplainable or supernatural – a vampire, a ghost, hell, even a zombie. Who would believe me? Would my girlfriend? My mother? My own eyes? The Outsider is very much about what happens when the only logical explanation to a situation is the incredible or fantastical, and how willing one is to accept those explanations.
The Outsider takes place in the Stephen King Multiverse, and is directly connected to The Bill Hodges Trilogy. You need not have read those books (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, End of Watch) to enjoy it – the novel stands on its own – though I personally feel it’s a far stronger work than the final entry in that series. In fact, The Outsider is one of the strongest works from King this decade, in my opinion, easily rising above Sleeping Beauties and Doctor Sleep, though it’s not as monumental an achievement as 11/22/63.
Outsiders may not necessarily get the fuss, but for Stephen King’s legion of fans, this book is a no brainer. Highly recommended.
The Outsider is available now from Simon & Schuster Canada.