Monday, 6 August 2018

The Outsider, by Stephen King.

           Respected Little League Baseball coach Terry Maitland has guided his team into a regional play-off which, if they win, could see them into the finals, a dream unheard of at the start of the season:  instead, as a crucial part of the game is under way, he is loudly and publicly arrested on the field by two police officers for the rape and murder of Frank Peterson, a young boy whose body had been found in a park days beforehand.
            Detective Ralph Anderson has given the order for the arrest in front of 1500 people, so convinced is he of Maitland’s guilt, particularly with eye witness statements from a raft of different people who saw the boy get into Coach Maitland’s van (even though it was not his usual transport);  well, this bastard needs to be publicly arrested, for the child’s torture and death was horrendous – worse still, Maitland had coached most of the city’s young boys over the years, including Ralph’s son – any of them could have been victims.  Ralph has never been so angry in his life.
            And he is even angrier still when his incontrovertible evidence is defeated by a perfect, iron-clad alibi from Maitland:  he was nowhere near the scene of the crime on the day specified.  He and other high school colleagues were attending a conference in another city – he even made an appearance on a video recording of the event.  Close, Ralph, but no cigar.
            Stephen King takes his legions of readers on another rollercoaster ride through the Supernatural – as always, the plotting is watertight and his characters are always (ALWAYS!)  credible:  they are all people we know as neighbours, friends, family (or enemies), ordinary people  to whom unspeakable things happen.  Which makes Mr King’s brand of horror all the more shocking, for young Frank Peterson is not the first victim in this hair-raising story;  by the novel’s end there is a death-toll of characters, good and bad – and the reintroduction of Holly Gibney, the damaged, brave and endearing protagonist from Mr Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch.  It’s a pleasure to meet her again, and Detective Ralph comes to think so too, as she eventually convinces him that some crimes do not have a logical - or earthly – content.  I hope we see her in future stories – she is a gem and should shine again.  I hope you think so too, Mr King.  FIVE STARS

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