I’m a long-time fan of Stephen King and also a lover of audiobooks. So when King has a new book out, I wait impatiently for the email from Simon & Schuster offering it on audio, immediately sending in my request. I often don’t even bother to find out what the book is about, which was the case with The Outsider. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only is The Outsider continuing King’s recent string of detective novels, it could be considered a fourth book in the Bill Hodges series (linked to my reviews of all 3 books in that trilogy).
Flint City, Oklahoma’s beloved coach Terry Maitland is in the middle of his Little League team’s playoff game when the police descend on the field, arresting him for the death of Frank Petersen, a local boy who was brutally murdered. Detective Ralph Anderson is so incensed at the crime that the evidence says Terry committed that he ignores protocol with the public arrest. But soon the arrest comes back to bite Ralph in the butt, as Terry was over an hour away at the time of the crime, and he can prove it.
Ralph doesn’t understand how Terry can be in two places at once, as fingerprints and eye witnesses place Terry at the scene of the crime, but Terry’s alibi is air tight. When events occur that end up with Ralph on administrative leave, he just can’t let go of the idea that Terry is in fact innocent. Along with a group of other folks who are not convinced Terry is guilty — his lawyer, a private investigator, and a state cop among them — Ralph follows the impossible but increasingly likely trail to the killer. When Holly Gibney, former partner of Bill Hodges gets involved, she’s convinced the killer is of a supernatural nature, an idea Ralph has a really hard time getting behind.
As with most King books, this one is longer than the average novel, closing in on 500 pages and about 20 hours on audio. There aren’t many slow moments in the story though, as it moves from the immediate aftermath of Frank’s death, to the investigation that seems clear cut, to Holly’s involvement and another case that’s eerily similar, to the final showdown with the killer. As mentioned earlier, as Holly tries to convince Ralph that her idea is not absurd, there are major spoilers for the events of Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, and End of Watch. While I don’t think reading that series is required to enjoy The Outsider, it would help to understand Holly’s back story and how her character has evolved. Anyone who plans to read that series should do so before reading The Outsider.
Notes on the audiobook: Will Patton narrates The Outsider, as he did the Bill Hodges series. He does an amazing job of making each character unique and really brings Holly to life.