The Outsider

By: Stephen King

The people of Flint City, Oklahoma are very fond of Terry Maitland, the upstanding English teacher dedicated to coaching Little League baseball in his spare time. No one would have suspected Terry to be arrested for the violent rape, mutilation, and murder of the 11-year-old boy, Frank Peterson whom Maitland coached. However, that’s exactly what Detective Ralph Anderson sets out to do on the night of July 14th. In the middle of the playoffs, the crowd of 1,400 onlookers stares and murmurs in horror as FC’s golden man is carted off in handcuffs.

With DNA and fingerprints all over the body as well as eyewitness accounts of Maitland traveling with the Peterson boy, the case seems cut and dry. A home run. However, after taking Maitland in for questioning, evidence begins to mount that puts Anderson’s certainty of Terry’s guilt under fire.

Terry couldn’t have committed the murder. He was away on a trip and has evidence to prove it and eyewitnesses of his own. However, logic dictates that a person cannot be in two places at the same time. How did Terry Maitland kill Frank Peterson?

This was my first Stephen King novel experience gasp, yes I know.  I was a Stephen King virgin when I read this book and now I’m a groupie. Amazing how that can happen when you connect so completely with an author’s writing style and characters. Damn. And to think I picked up this novel because I was curious why people loved his work and I thought the cover was cool…okay it was mostly because of the cover…and the tiny synopses written inside the dust jacket.

Please excuse the next paragraphs, which essentially consist of complete gushing. Not the gory kind either, just the emotional kind.

Stephen King is a master at creating a general sense of unease and tension that lingers from cover to cover and stays with you even when the book isn’t in your hands. The book hangover I feel right now is intense. The kind that only comes with reading a book you really enjoy and didn’t want to finish because it meant the end of something great.  Interestingly, before I got far into the story, I noticed some reviews stated that the middle was slow and didn’t have the same suspense that is usually expected from a Stephen King novel. While I have never read another King book, here is my two cents on the issue (for whatever that’s worth)…

I call bullshit on the slow part. I’ve read a lot of slow books, some good…some bad. The worst ones are those that put me to sleep and the best ones are those that still put me to sleep but less often. This book kept me awake a night. Not just because it was terrifying but also because I had an intense hunger to finish it. I needed to know what would happen next and not once did I want to put it down and start another story.

Suspense and speed in a story aren’t all about Michael Bay style car chases and explosions or constant violence and gore. Suspense is about gripping the reader by the throat and making the characters want to find the truth to the mystery as much as you do. The mystery scares them, it scares their friends, it scares you and the only way to make the fear stop is to pursue a resolution. That’s what this book does exceptionally well.

The only sad thing to me was that the ending was (not necessarily anticlimactic) just not what I was anticipating for the climax of the story. Still a lot of great stuff there though. I’m not complaining because at least the suspense lasts.

The novel was divided up differently than a normal story is. Rather than chapters, there are sections of the novel that are named and continue as subsections that are numbered and run together. I believe this subversion of regular breaks helped with the flow of the story because my natural tendency wasn’t to stop like chapters do. I wanted to keep reading, and I liked that quite a lot. People at work took notice of how much I seemed to like the story (despite its horrific descriptions).

Character development was great and the personalities were lively and real. Small details that skimmers of stories would miss are vitally important to the plot, and one of the most important characters in the story is actually from another of King’s books (because all of them are interconnected). The tie-ins really get me jazzed to read more of his stories. I can’t wait to discover all the dark secrets even though I could never hope to find them all.

Next stop on the King journey is The Green Mile after this commercial break to read something else less soul-sucking.

Overall rating: 5

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