Review: The Outsider by Stephen King

Erich Mayer

Few can bring the horrible to life as well as Stephen King can.
Review: The Outsider by Stephen King

Stephen King's The Outsider.

In The Outsider, as he has done so well in many of his other novels, Stephen King writes convincingly about ordinary people going about their normal lives. King then introduces some unnatural phenomenon or creature and describes how these people deal with that unusual situation. This is not to say his novels are formulaic – far from it. But one of the reasons for his immense popularity is this ability to describe brilliantly the day-by-day doings of everyday people and their reaction to some combination of the improbable, the impossible, the unbelievable and the horrible. And few can bring the horrible to life as well as King can.

In The Outsider, King takes his readers to Flint City. It is a typical Oklahoma town – one large enough to have all the amenities and small enough for most people to know the local popular baseball coach, Terry Maitland. What happens to Terry and how it affects his family and friends is at the heart of this story.

With this book, then, King has produced a crime novel which is a gripping page-turner. But there is more to it than a thriller, good as that may be. There is a telling example of how quickly rumour can take hold, how quickly a crowd can get out of control. That a person should be presumed to be innocent until proved guilty is another lesson the reader can take away from this book; King does not preach but he makes that point loud and clear. There is a lazy and corrupt police officer and there is an honest police officer who has made a bad mistake but has never swerved from seeking the truth, and who is helped in this task by a supportive wife as well as by professional detective, Holly Gibney. 

Readers who enjoyed Holly in King's trilogy, Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch will savour meeting her again and will appreciate her abilities as a sleuth. She has become more experienced and has grown in self-confidence. She gains the acceptance of the Flint City group who has hired her to help in their search for a brutal murderer and she is pivotal in reminding them of the Sherlock Holmes dictum: 'When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth'. And, as is usual with King, the improbable is at the heart of the matter.

King's followers will not be disappointed by this book, but it is too much to expect that every King book will be as good as, for instance, the unforgettable 11.22.63. When the bar is set so high it is too much to expect it to be exceeded every time. 

4½ stars ★★★★☆

The Outsider

By Stephen King 

ISBN 9781501180989 

Published by Simon & Schuster

May 2018

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Erich Mayer is a retired company director and former organic walnut farmer. He now edits the blog humblecomment.info