The Outsider – Stephen King

It’s been a while since I read any crime fiction or thrillers and as I do enjoy King’s writing usually I grabbed this one at the airport in Dubai. For some reason, I thought I’d run out of my reading material on the flight back to London (which is hardly possible if you are a third through a 500 pages long book). Either way, I bought it and I read it and I enjoyed it.

It really have been months since I read any crime fiction or thriller. I was wondering why, but I think it has something to do with me reading a lot more paper books, while all my crime collection is on my Kindle. Which, by the way, decided to die after 7 years, a week before my vacation, perfect timing!

Somehow I don’t feel I should be buying crime fiction in paper, I know it makes me sound like a snob. Which is probably true as well. I enjoy crime and thrillers very much, but they are a guilty pleasure and I do consider them, let’s say ‘unambitious literature’. Which does not mean I don’t respect crime writers, I do, I think it is an art to write a good crime novel, especially since so many that are being published are mediocre.

The story here is so simple that it is not simple at all. A crime has been committed, there are fingerprints, eyewitnesses and a suspect clearly identified. So our brave detective Ralph Anderson proceeds to publicly arrest the said suspect. Terry Maitland is a Little League coach, a husband and a father of two girls, one of the most respected citizens in the community. Yet, the moment he is arrested everyone turns against him.

The only problem being that Terry has an iron-clad alibi. So how could he be in two places? The action unfolds at a good pace, and the question really keeps us on our toes. Especially that we want to take both sides, the detective’s who is convinced he has the right man, and Terry’s who we want to be innocent. King plays out this dichotomy with mastery, making the reader very involved and rooting, impossibly, for both sides.

There is a cast of side characters, but the only one developed well (apart from Ralph) is Holly Gibney, a PI, known also from Mr Mercedes. Others feel a bit like props. And that’s also where the book failed for me a bit, I did not buy fully into the explanation given and more than that I did not care. So as good as the first part of the story was in keeping me involved and maintaining the tension, the second part lost me a bit. Also, the ending felt a bit rushed, which may be understandable if you consider the book is over 450 pages long anyway, but King was never one to shy away from long novels, so I’m not sure what happened here.

I still enjoyed the book a lot, it is a well-written thriller. Just not one of King’s masterpieces. And maybe that’s the trap – high expectations.

This is book #9 of my 20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy at 746books.
See my list as it grows here.

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska 


2 thoughts on “The Outsider – Stephen King

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