The Outsider is the latest in a string of Stephen King books in the past couple of years. He’s mostly been collaborating, but this is solo King and it did not disappoint.
What makes this book especially creepy is the idea that this could happen to anyone with just a small amount of contact with The Outsider. I love that King calls the entire police/prison system into question through the use of DNA and fingerprint evidence versus actual visual evidence that the suspect could not have been there at the time of the murder. None of this is spoiler material – you spend about half the book deciding whether you believe Terry Maitland committed this heinous crime or whether he had a double or a doppelganger. Unfortunately Occam’s Razor is true here, it’s just that the simplest explanation is a supernatural one, complicating things a bit for our heroes and heroines.
In the latter third of the book the private investigator working for Terry’s defense attorney decides to call up a familiar face to help with their case. Holly Gibney, of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, comes in to investigate Terry’s connection to his father in Ohio, and how that might inform their search for an outsider who brought a white van from Ohio all the way to Flint City in Oklahoma to kidnap Frank Peterson.
As is the case with many King novels that I read and enjoy, I hear him speaking to larger truths through the horror of the ordinary. The idea that this outsider feeds on fear and sadness, lives in or near graveyards, and is essentially a Clayface full of worms that runs around ruining people’s lives, all it screamed was the After Times to me. So many people are out of the woodwork now that just want to say the most outrageous things or do the most hurtful things and then take joy from the suffering of others. Sure in this book it’s only one man, and flushing him out of hiding is tough because there is only one of him and he’s camouflaged, but consider that we allow these kinds of people to exist around us all the time. Sure, they don’t frame other people or steal their appearances, but they live off misery. They live off of sadness. You only need to look at the most recent practice of ripping children from asylum seekers to believe that this is true, and it has been true of this country for centuries.
Once everyone agrees to believe and work together it’s a race to the conclusion. The Stephen King books that I love the most are the ones where you can feel someone put the pedal to the metal and all you can do is hold on until the end of the road. It’s like reading the first 60% or so is the slow clicking up the beginning of a very tall roller coaster, and then your stomach will know when you’re just about to go for a very fast, exhilarating ride. The Outsider is just this kind of book, and I was hooked and ready for everything it had to throw at me from the first page to the last. It’s a 600 page book that I read in like 3 days, if that tells you anything.
This book is amazing and a great summer read if you’re lounging about. King is really on his game here and you won’t be disappointed. Go get you some.