Review The Outsider novel by Stephen King

Praise for The Outsider:

“A juicy tale that plays at the forefront of our current phobias… [The Outsider] will remind readers of King’s early novel It.”  — Kirkus Reviews 

“What begins as a manhunt for an unlikely doppelgänger takes an uncanny turn into the supernatural. King’s skillful use of criminal forensics helps to ground his tale in a believable clinical reality where the horrors stand out in sharp relief.”Publishers Weekly

“Absolutely riveting. . . another shockingly dark book—perfect for longtime fans, of whom there are, well, zillions.” —Booklist

“There’s plenty of shadowy, wormy supernatural goings-on in Stephen King’s new novel The Outsider. Yet the most unsettling stuff — that which will leave you uncomfortable when you sit and devour this first-rate read — probes the monstrous side of human nature.” —Brian Truitt, USA Today

“Do yourself a favor and read the book.”Associated Press

“An It for the Trump era…remarkable and deeply pleasurable.”—Ryan Vlastelica, The AV Club 

“Here’s to mutant rats in the basement and Mexican myths; here’s to the strange and to Stephen King. Still inspiring.”—Victor LaValle, New York Times Book Review

“King is arguably as much an American icon as the ’68 Fastback or a classic red and white Plymouth Fury. All of these glories are on full display in his latest mystery-horror hybridyou’re in for one hell of a ride.” —Karin Slaughter, The Washington Post

Either King is getting more comfortable with his ability to draw us in with a minium of words, or he’s got a much better editor than he did at the start. I can’t quite pinpoint when his verbosity stopped, but it’s a welcome change.

This is more in the Mr. Mercedes universe than the old Derry/Castle Rock/Things that go bump in the night universe of old. It starts out being a perplexing murder mystery, and it’s not until later in the story that supernatural elements start creeping in. By that time, though, you’re so involved in the story that the supernatural elements seem plausible…and then they start making sense. As the book quotes, Arthur Conan Doyle (via Sherlock Holmes) said “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” King manages to eliminate the impossible, slowly yet surely.

I’ve started measuring how good I think a mystery/horror book is by how tense I get when I read it. I was extremely tense reading this one, wondering just what the solution was going to be.

I highly recommend this for anyone who enjoyed the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, or 11/22/63.

When I post reviews of Stephen King, I quite often rate it at five stars and, consequently, many people assume I’m just another King groupie. If you are one of these, you might still find a reason to appreciate my take on this latest work by the master of horror, because this story goes into something much more than just horror. Be sure though that you are ready to journey through shock and awe as only Stephen King can guide you.

In searching my book of quotations, searching for just the right thought, I came up with this nugget of wisdom by the master of horror:

The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool – Stephen King

Demakis, Joseph. The Ultimate Book of Quotations (p. 490). Unknown. Kindle Edition.

BLUSH FACTOR: This is Stephen King, so, of course, there are ample profanities. As for me, I wouldn’t change a word, but that’s just me.

Reviewers and readers of Stephen King fall into three categories. My target audience is that segment that wants to know if this novel is little more than a re-hash of one of his other novels, or something fresh and titillating.

As for myself, I am close to being a dedicated fan, so keep that in mind as you proceed.

The Outsider blends typical King with the same sort of plot as his Bill Hodges series and some of that exhibited in the book 11-23-63. Where it differs markedly from both is the King gets us inside the head


NOTE: I took the below excerpt from about the 15% mark, so don’t get the impression that this is a spoiler. What you’re reading hear may, or may not shed light on the direction of the story. It is provided only so readers can get a feel for the language utilized with great effect to set the scene and establish the mood, as I call it, or to foretell the direction of the tale.

‘…deliberate. What possessed you? What on God’s green earth possessed you?”

Ralph felt his face heating up again. “You really want to know, counselor?”

“Ralph,” Samuels said warningly. He put a restraining hand on Ralph’s arm.

Ralph shook it off. “I wasn’t the one who arrested him. I had a couple of officers do that, because I was afraid I might put my hands around his throat and choke him blue. Which would give a smart lawyer like you a little too much to work with.” He stepped forward, getting into Gold’s space to make him stop the back and forth rocking. “He grabbed Frank Peterson and took him to Figgis Park. There he raped the kid with a tree branch, and there he killed him. Do you want to know how he killed him?”

“Ralph, that’s privileged!” Samuels squawked.

Ralph paid no attention. “Preliminary forensics suggests he tore the kid’s throat open with his teeth. He may even have swallowed some of the flesh, okay? All that got him so excited that he dropped trou and spilled his spunk all over the back of the kid’s thighs. Nastiest, vilest, most unspeakable unspeakable murder any of us will ever see, God willing. He must have been building up to it for a long time. None of us who were at the scene will ever get it out of our minds. And…’

King, Stephen. The Outsider: A Novel (Kindle Locations 961-971). Scribner. Kindle Edition.


I’ve tried to provide sufficient insight into “The Outsider” without spoiling the tale and without slipping any expletives into the review. If you have enjoyed King’s recent stories, I think this is even better than those. Mind you, my favorite of his remains “The Stand,” but this story is a very close second, or, perhaps, third.

Five stars out of five.

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