Author: Stephen King
Take the plot from The Dark Half, replace the villain with the something out of Salem’s Lot, told partially in the style of Carrie and what are you left with? A book full of recycled ideas from Stephen King. If I hadn’t previously read The Dark Half in particular, I would have enjoyed this book a lot more. The similarities between the two books went beyond the setup and continued through much of the execution.
The Outsider begins after the horrific murder of a child in a small town in Oklahoma. The Detective, Ralph Anderson, and Prosecutor Bill Samuels are in luck though because the case is a slam dunk. Several witnesses recognize local baseball coach Terry Maitland first having the victim get into his van, then later exit covered in blood. Officers later recovered the van with finger prints and forensic evidence all linking Maitland to the crime. Anxious to make an arrest in the case quickly, and to keep the public safe in case he decides to strike again, Maitland is placed into custody in full view of hundreds of locals during the middle of the big game.
Once Maitland is in custody, with his family’s lives forever altered as the cloud of judgment moves over all of them, Detectives speak to Maitland who then provides an airtight alibi. How airtight? Try multiple witnesses, video tape of Maitland and forensic evidence left behind placing Maitland in another city during the exact time the murder was taking place. Suddenly, Detective Anderson is questioning whether he has arrested the right guy, and he’s not the only one. Along with Maitland’s attorney, his attorney’s investigator, Terry’s wife Marcy, Ralph’s wife Jeannie, a state police detective and a side character from King’s Bill Hodges trilogy Ralph begins to consider all explanation for what has taken place.
It’s not really a spoiler to say that Stephen King is a fan of incorporating the supernatural into his stories. The Outsideris a book that gets pretty far going before that becomes an issue, so much so that I could see it alienating a reader who thinks they’re getting one type of story but then ends up going in a very different direction. I enjoy those types of twists, so my favorite part of the book ended up being the meeting between all the parties where they figured out what was going on.
I won’t rehash the entire plot of The Dark Half, but here are some Cliff notes: A terrible murder occurs, and all of the evidence points to local author Thad Beaumont, event down to his finger prints being at the crime scene. Fortunately for Thad, he has an airtight alibi for while the crime took place. The officers who go to arrest him don’t buy it, but Thad and his wife gradually convince the lead detective that there is a supernatural explanation for the killings and that Thad is innocent.
That story, written in the style/voice of Stephen King was decent and I previously gave it a three star review. I probably enjoyed some of the characters/scenes in The Outsider more than I did in The Dark Half, but with as familiar as this book felt I feel obligated to give it a lower score. In addition, the final confrontation felt decidedly anti-climactic, with a character introduced midway through the book taking center stage at a shocking moment in a manner surprising to the other character present for no comprehensible reason aside from surprising the reader as well.