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The Outsider by Stephen King

Whenever I begin a Stephen King novel I know I’m in the very good hands of a master story-teller and writer. I’ll be swept away: engaged, disturbed, entertained, horrified. I’ll be meeting an assembly of highly novel and sharply defined characters along the way.

The Outsider is Stephen King at his best. King is a wizard of characterisation; the chat and gossip and atmosphere of the initial small town setting is superbly depicted alongside the elements of menace and violence. The mutilated body of an eleven-year old boy is found. There is no doubt that the coach of the little league team, Terry Maitland, is responsible. There are a number of witnesses and forensic evidence to prove it beyond any doubt. The crime is made more heinous by the fact that Maitland is a trusted and respected member of the town. The town turns against him with tragic consequences. Throughout the initial enquiries, though, the detective in charge, Ralph Anderson, is convinced he has arrested the right man.

And yet, doubts appear. How can someone be in two places at once?

Detective Ralph Anderson looks for a rational explanation but it is his wife Jeanie who asks the questions that send him in a direction that is far from rational. Holly Gibney, makes a welcome return from King’s Mr Mercedes to join with Anderson to find the child killer. They discover similar events have occurred. Again, there are no rational explanations.

One of the many intriguing aspects of the novel is that its beginning as a crime novel- the solving of a murder- gradually incorporates the supernatural. The elements of monstrousness, darkness and strong sense of evil are juxtaposed against the more clear-cut rationality of determining guilt. King pushes our credibility to the point where we are with him, experiencing the mounting sense of horror, holding onto our breath as the battle between evil and goodness is played out.

Reviewer: Paddy Richardson

Hodder & Stoughten


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