Our Review

I’d say that the King of Horror is back, but that would imply he went anywhere. Perhaps I better say: The King of Horror has gone back to his roots. But that wouldn’t be true either, as The Outsider has much more in common with his recent foray into (very good) police procedurals than it does the horror and suspense novels he made his name writing. I guess all I can really say is: King does it again.

The Outsider starts off as a relatively straightforward, albeit gruesome, detective story. Terry Maitland, little league coach and all-round nice guy, is publicly arrested at a ball game for the rape and murder of a young boy. The evidence is concrete, several witnesses claim to have seen Maitland with the boy, and the DNA found on the corpse matches his. It’s an open and shut case. That is until a video emerges of him in a completely different city at the time of the murder.

The story continues in this vein for about half of the novel, before pulling a sharp left turn into horror. Fans of King will not find this unusual, but those who have only read his Mr Mercedes trilogy may find this switch to more suspenseful, mid-tempo storytelling a little off-putting. I for one did not mind, and found the second half of the story as entertaining as the first, with its palpable sense of looming dread overcoming its lessened pace. As is the case with so many King books, The Outsider’s real strength of lies not in the plot, but in the characterization and the storytelling. King’s writing is on point, as always. His language is simple and to the point, letting the story tell itself.

The dialogue is also consistently excellent. The main cast are easily distinguishable by their word choice, and even minor characters, such as the witnesses, are given their own flair. Each character feels like a person rather than a caricature, even if they only appear briefly, giving the novel a sense of realism rarely seen in crime or horror. This will come as no surprise to King’s Constant Readers, and further exemplifies another of his key talents – no matter what insane, twisted, or frankly unbelievable things he writes about, you can’t help but believe them, and more importantly, care for them.

King’s trademark ability to recreate the atmosphere of small towns and small-town gossip also remains unparalleled. This, again, will come as no surprise to the Constant Reader, so much so that it’s barely worth mentioning. But I must, just in case anyone had their doubts.

The Outsider doesn’t rank amongst King’s greatest works, at least in terms of vision. It doesn’t have the meta-horror of It, or the moral terror of Pet Sematary. There are some nice allusions to the evil within humanity and the endlessness of the universe, but nothing compared to the musings of The Stand or The Dark Tower series. However, it doesn’t strive to be like those books, nor should it. It’s a thrill ride, and thrill rides don’t have time to waste on such contemplation.

Though not his most ambitious novel, The Outsider is certainly one of King’s most entertaining. As long as you can stomach its grisliness, this is an absolute must read.