Weird Whodunnit: The Outsider by Stephen King

The Outsider by Stephen King

Chilling. Disturbing. A new monster from Stephen King invaded my dreams when I read this month’s 2019 Hail to the King reading challenge title: The Outsider

Though not as long as Duma Key, The Outsider is still a good-sized novel. Despite that I read it fast. Part of that was not wanting to put it down once I started. As much as I enjoy the stories in Night Shift, at the end of a short story it’s easy to put the book down. That’s not the case here. I wanted to settle down and keep reading. Forget everything else. I couldn’t do that, but I did read every chance I got.

The Outsider begins with the public arrest of a popular coach, “Coach T,” Terry at the big game. Ralph Anderson, the police chief?, chooses this action because he is a) convinced of Terry’s guilt, and b) he takes it personally since Terry coached his son.

King intercuts between events happening now and the witness statements that led Anderson and the prosecutor to go for the arrest despite not having followed procedures. They haven’t talked to Terry. They didn’t investigate where he’d been at the time of the murder before the arrest. Why? Because there didn’t seem to be any need. They had multiple eye witness accounts, finger prints, and DNA evidence they were convinced would put Terry at the crime. Slam dunk.

Except it gets more complicated. Terry turns out to have an ironclad alibi. Other details begin to emerge that cast doubt even though they have what seems conclusive evidence. The more Ralph investigates, the more perplexing the problem.

Body Snatchers

I’m fond of The Body Snatchers in book and movie form. Stories about evil twins, doppelgangers, robot duplicates, and all the rest hit my reader cookies. The Outsider is a disturbing book with its graphic and gruesome murder of a child. Still, it’s the idea of a being that looks like you, a creature that can commit a crime and you’ll get the blame, that’s a terrifying idea.

New Characters With New Insights

I didn’t know before starting this book that Holly from the Bill Hodges trilogy was going to be an important character. I didn’t know it was connected to the trilogy. At the same time, reading it at the start, I thought about how it reminded me of Mr. Mercedes. That’s the only book in the trilogy I’ve read (Finders Keepers is on the reading challenge list for later in the year). If you haven’t read the trilogy there are some spoilers in this book.

Holly brings a different perspective to the book and has a strong influence on the other characters, particularly Ralph. She’s also one of my favorite characters in the entire book. Not one of, she is my favorite character. I’m looking forward to getting back to the trilogy but I think I’ll reread Mr. Mercedes before I read the others.

Final Thoughts

I loved this book. Yes, it’s disturbing, but it’s a chilling horror novel that kept me turning the pages. I didn’t want to put it down.

Next up in May, I’ll be reading Blaze by Richard Bachman, King’s alter ego. It’s another one that I haven’t read so I’m looking forward to a new reading experience.