The Outsider Review
11-year-old Frankie Peterson is found brutally murdered and all the evidence points to Little League coach Terry Maitland. Detective Ralph Anderson is particularly outraged and makes the fateful decision to arrest Terry in public, creating a media sensation in the process. But, as the investigation begins to unfold, doubts and alternative evidence make Ralph question Terry’s guilt. As the mystery deepens the horrible truth that emerges creates a tense race against time, which finishes up in a run-of-the-mill good versus evil showdown.
If you go check out Goodreads, you’ll see that this book, like so many others, as wide range of reader opinions. They are all over the road, from 1-star to 5-star ratings, with a multitude of justifications. As for me, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Here’s why.
Things begin, as they often do, with a horrific crime. Not just any crime, but the savage slaughter of a child. All signs (and witnesses) point to the least likely of perpetrators, which makes for good crime reading already—isn’t it always the least likely suspect in good mysteries? But, in true King style, the story begins to unfold, and the case against Terry Maitland begins to unravel. Terry, of course, denies committing this heinous act, and maintains his claim of innocence in the face of DNA and fingerprint evidence. Even eyewitnesses that place at the scene can’t sway him. He is firm in his denial.
The Outsider begins as a police procedural crime novel, moves into the territory of family/small town drama, and ends up being (no surprise to anyone who has ever read Stephen King) a tale of supernatural horror. The story can be broken up into four parts, and should maybe be rated in those four separate sections.
Part One: The setup. Here the crime is investigated. A man is arrested. We meet the major players in the drama. In typical King fashion, he pulled into the tale, into the lives of these people. As the tale of each couple, each child, each individual came more into focus, I began to feel for each of them. And isn’t that what reading books is all about? Feelings?
For sheer storytelling, I’d give the first quarter 5 stars.
Part Two: The mystery deepens. The second quarter of this book gets 5 stars as well, for characters development and an intriguing plot. Who doesn’t being shocked by twists in a plot, or delving deeper into characters lives and beliefs? There were a couple jaw-dropping surprises in the second quarter of this book.
Part Three: We meet a ‘new’ character, Holly Gibney, who is not new, as she was in the Mr. Mercedes crime trilogy (which I have not read). The book slows down a bit here as we are given a bunch of background info about Holly and her relationship to a man named Bill Hodges (from the aforementioned Mr. Mercedes) and their private investigation firm Finders Keepers. While I appreciate the recap (as I have not read those books and needed to be caught up), the constant reverie that Holly Gibney appears to be caught in was tedious and boring. As far as Holly as a character, she detracts a couple stars from the rating of the third quarter of this book. I did not find her interesting at all. And sadly, her entire existence seems to serve the sole purpose of being just barely capable enough to impress men who are easily surprised when a woman is capable at all. I don’t know if the blatant sexism and degradation of women in general through the portrayal of one character was intentional, but it sure was obvious. She was just kind of flat and useless, as far as I can see; although it is she, Holly, who brings to light the truth of what is actually happening and who was responsible for the murder of Frankie Peterson (the 11-year-old boy whose death kicks off this tale).
Part Four: This seems like a solution-to-the-problem/climax/resolution segment that just wouldn’t come to an end. I’m not quite sure why that is. The first half of the book read really fast, with great pacing and intrigue. The second half got bogged down and became rather dull. This final quarter, in particular, felt like the forth quarter of a football game where one team is up by so many points you just flipped over to watch something else. In other words, there is no doubt how things will turn out. In the beginning, so much mystery; in the end, not nearly enough.
All in all, I’ll give this four stars, because it was interesting, and the supernatural elements woven throughout are masterful; and though the characters became a little flat in the end, I still cared about them. And that’s got to count for something.