How can a killer be two places at once? Seems impossible, but when it’s master of horror Stephen King pulling the strings, anything can happen. With one foot firmly in the world of reality with a police procedural, and the other floating in supernatural air, The Outsider weaves a chilling tale indeed.
When a young boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park, eyewitness accounts and a set of fingerprints point to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls—how could he possibly do such a horrible thing? Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, has his doubts, but with a heinous crime such as this, justice must be swift and absolute. Following a quick and public arrest, Maitland offers an alibi, but there is also clear DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. The case seems open-and-shut. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing the proverbial mask?
“His throat was just gone,” says the man who found the body. “Nothing there but a red hole. His blue-jeans and underpants were pulled down to his ankles, and I saw something….” As per usual, King spares no detail, even when the subject is as squirm-inducing as child abuse and murder.
Other topical issues are tackled, such as Black Lives Matter, but it never feels forced or shoehorned in. King takes his sweet time in introducing us to the town, both in its people and its blueprint, planting the reader deep into the world he’s woven. It’s a painstaking process that some may find too meticulous (or just plain slow), but it absolutely pays off when the supernatural element seeps in. It’s spooky and atmospheric, so I am grateful that I chose the audiobook option—narrator Will Patton does an excellent, understated read, mastering a variety of characters and accents.
The novel came out a few years ago; the HBO series premiered in January 2020, featuring Ben Mendelsohn, Cynthia Erivo, Paddy Considine, Julianne Nicholson, and Jason Bateman as the accused. Reviews have been positive.
While The Outsider may be triggering for some readers and/or viewers, there’s no denying it is a unique and compelling twist on the Boogeyman legend.