Stephen King’s latest novel, The Outsider, blends elements of a police procedural with King’s trademark horror. Detective Ralph Anderson is in charge of investigating a horrific crime, and he’s sure he’s got the right man. But the alleged perpetrator has an ironclad alibi, and contradictions in the evidence keep piling up that range from “really strange” to “flat-out impossible.”
The novel has a fairly large cast of characters: Anderson, an ambitious DA, a Mexican-American state police officer who gets pulled into the investigation, the alleged perpetrator and his wife, the accused’s defense attorney and a private investigator working for him, and so on. But King differentiates the characters well enough to keep them from getting mixed up in the reader’s mind. He also does a good job of portraying characters on both sides of the emerging criminal case as reasonable.
Many of King’s works make brief references to other stories of his, but the crossover is much more prominent here. Readers of the Bill Hodges trilogy will recognize a character who shows up about halfway through the book and plays a major role in how the plot plays out. However, you don’t need to have read the Bill Hodges novels to understand and enjoy The Outsider.
The mystery aspect of the story is engaging and kept me turning pages. My theory for what was really going on didn’t turn out to be right, but the truth was an imaginative (and, true to King’s form, creepy) idea. The pacing is also quite good: it’s a slow-burn story, but one that never gets boring.