Government drone by day and book lover and geek girl by night!
So. I had a lot of time this Memorial Day weekend to think more on "The Outsider." I decided that when push comes to shove, that it is a four star book IMHO. It's a strong four stars, but there were some hiccups here and there that ended up causing it to not be a five star read to me (the over explanations and I think King being too scared to push the envelope like he did with "Revival.").
I also have to say that one of the main characters, Detective Ralph Anderson did not draw me in at all. He is no Alan Pangborn or Bill Hodges to me. I was annoyed by his actions for most of the book. I also hate how two characters just died with no push to have their last moments shown, King just discarded them with nary a look back it felt like.
"The Outsider" begins with Detective Ralph Anderson preparing some other officers to go to the town's Little League game and prepare to arrest a teacher by the name of Terry Maitland. Forensics and eye witnesses put Terry with a local boy who was found murdered in a horrific way. Due to the savagery of the crime, Anderson wants to humiliate Maitland and that causes him to skip procedural steps along the way. When other witnesses put Maitland in another city and not with the young boy who was murdered. Anderson and the local DA still don't believe him and are still going forward with having him prosecuted. Of course this being a King novel, things don't add up and then the proverbial "shit hits the fan" with a fall out that affects not only Anderson but Maitland's family. An investigation is led by Maitland's attorney, and we get to revisit a familiar character in this one (Holly from the Bill Hodges trilogy).
I already said up front that I didn't find Anderson that compelling a character. He screws up a lot. He also has a saint of a wife who was dealing with his constant need to be right and or not believe what was being shown to him via other people. You always seem to get a Doubting Thomas in a King book, but eventually they come over to the other side pretty quickly. Anderson just kept ignoring everything almost up to the end.
Maitland wasn't a real character to me at all. I don't know, I should have felt something about him, but I maybe hard shrugged about what befell him. I wish that King had set up him and his family a bit earlier in the book. I didn't have a chance to be outraged about the injustice visited upon him. Speaking of Maitland, I didn't like his wife Marcy at all. She was nasty (at one point she thinks to herself that she hopes a detective who is at her house loses her unborn baby). Maitland's two daughters don't feel there either. King can usually write kids very well. In this one, he didn't seem to bother with them too much. And I think that's a shame. There is a reason that "IT" is such a classic, he manages to get the fear that exists when you have a child that knows that something evil is out there and is disbelieved by adults.
The other main character I would like to focus on in this one is Holly Gibney. Can I say how glad I am that King dialed back the random dialogue ticks that Holly had in the Bill Hodges trilogy. Sorry, her constantly saying "fracking" and "poopy" made me want to throttle her in those books. King definitely has a more assertive Holly in this one.
I will say that like many reviewers have said, the first part of the book lays things out as would a mystery novel. I found it very boring. I personally didn't need to re-read all of the eye witness testimony or read the coroner's and other's reports about what was done to the poor boy. Once was enough thank you. I think that King did this to show how Anderson and others could be fooled. When the horror elements start leaking through the book became stronger to me. I didn't need all of the background on the outsider either though. If you are a Constant Reader you have a fair idea of what this is. But I get that King has to write for people who maybe haven't read his other works yet.
Here's the thing, the first time I heard the term "Outsider" via a King book was when I read "Bag of Bones." So for me, I was wondering if there would be some tie back to that book, unfortunately I don't recall reading anything that ties back to the events in that book. However, when you continue reading this book you do see links between other King books. Mostly references to "Mr. Mercedes", "Finders Keepers," "End of Watch,", "The Dark Tower," "It, and one of King's novellas, "The Library Policeman" from "Four Past Midnight." Dear Stephen King, thanks for making me freaked out about visiting the library for a whole summer.
The writing was typical King, though it's a King I got used to via the Bill Hodges books. He seems content to work on some sort of detective novels via his books right now. It's working for the most part.
The flow was up and down though. By the time that Holly appears I was over all of the talking and wanted some action to take place.
The book ends on a hopeful/happy note and it felt a bit out of place to me. It just didn't feel done.
Top Ten Stephen King books (subject to change depending on my mood that day):
1. IT (except for that one thing in the book that I always skip over)
2. The Talisman
3. The Green Mile
4. Drawing of the Three
5. Bag of Bones
6. Pet Semetary
10. Rose Madder