The Outsider is a novel by Stephen King that was published in 2018. The book is a crime thriller that follows the story of a true detective investigating the murder of a young boy. The detective, Ralph Anderson, comes to suspect that the killer is a supernatural entity. The book was well-received by critics and was a bestseller.
The Outsider Book Review Stephen King
The Outsider seems like it may be King by numbers based on the description alone. Terry Maitland, a baseball youth coach, family man, and the all-around nice person gets arrested and the community turns against him when he is suspected of the brutal murder of a young boy. (As almost every character says at one point or another, “He coached my son/grandson!”) Detective Ralph Anderson is in charge of the investigation, a guy who loved Terry and can’t believe he would do such a thing but understands that all the evidence leads to his being guilty.
A transcript of official statements from important people in the prosecution’s case replaces King’s beautiful head-hopping third-person story, a formal move that refers to the statements and newspaper snippets King utilized throughout his debut, Carrie.
As Detective Anderson and the state prosecutor gather damning evidence, the book becomes a well-researched, well-polished crime-cum-legal case novel. They are then hit with a curveball: Terry has an alibi, but he was also recorded on film at a Harlan Coben speak in another town at the very moment the murder occurred. Aside from the unnecessary cameo, it’s a truly compelling mystery that incorporates numerous clichés from both “grip-lit” thrillers and more traditional forensics-driven crime fiction.
Then, as is so frequently the case in King books, the rug is yanked out from under the reader’s feet: the airtight case stays airtight, but so does the alibi, until Anderson, with the assistance of Holly Gibney (on loan from the Bill Hodges trilogy), begins to unravel Terry’s narrative.
From then, the story takes you to some strange places – and I mean that as praise. The supernatural elements have a lot in common with some of King’s most well-known creations, particularly in the hazy way he describes what they are. He’s always known that the unknown – the question – is more terrifying than discovering the truth.
Even yet, the titular Outsider isn’t the book’s most powerful bad spirit. From comments of the Black Lives Matter movement to the ominous presence of Donald Trump, conjured by a throng donning Make America Great Again caps and baying for Terry’s blood, there’s an interesting political undertone running through the film. King also looks at how sex offenders are treated in society. (As one of his regular readers, I find it unsettling to think of Trump sharing a fictitious world with Greg Stillson, The Dead Zone’s terrifying presidential candidate.)
The Outsider may be seen as King’s take on false news, taking it away from politics and toward something more personal. What shape may the notion of lies being presented as truth take?
That isn’t to suggest the book as a whole isn’t enjoyable. The strangeness begins after a couple of hundred pages, and the feeling of the eerie that pervades the whole story means that the most terrifying components fail to startle when they finally come. The Outsider, on the other hand, offers King fans precisely what they want while also packing in fresh ideas, showing the least shocking of all: that his books are as powerful as they’ve ever been.
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The Outsider HBO Review
“The Outsider” is a story about faith at its foundation. The 2018 book by Stephen King centers on a small-town detective whose profession compels him to discover tangible solutions to real-world riddles and then delivers him an impossible case that he can’t explain without contemplating otherworldly possibilities.
King wants his readers to do the same thing, to believe in the unbelievable, but the work falls well short of satisfying its own request. Perhaps the Master of Horror has spent so much time writing about ghosts and demons that he no longer feels the need to persuade anyone that believing in the boogeyman is a rational, rational choice, but the book tries to merge two diametrically opposed genres — speculative fiction and true crime — without respecting the foundations of both.
HBO’s “The Outsider” strikes a better, though not ideal, balance. HBO’s 10-episode series is still hampered by a few of the original story’s trappings, but its author knows better than to take his audience’s trust for granted. Adapted by novelist Richard Price, who is known for writing realistic police dramas like “The Night Of,” “The Wire,” and “The Deuce,” HBO’s 10-episode series is still hampered by a few of the original story’s trappings, but its author knows “The Outsider” isn’t on the level of Price’s previous work, but it’s considerably better than this narrative has any right to be, thanks to a brilliant cast (headed by Ben Mendelsohn) and creepy, austere directing from Emmy-winner Jason Bateman.
Meet Ralph Anderson (Mendelsohn), a policeman whose work requires him to deliver good and terrible news. The drawbacks are as follows: Not long after the death of his own teenage son, the Georgia-based investigator came upon a particularly heinous case involving a viciously killed youngster. Although Ralph’s lone kid was not murdered or sexually assaulted in the woods, the still-recovering officer isn’t over the unfairness of losing his child. What’s the good news? He knows who is responsible for the latest fatality, and he intends to hold him accountable.
Ralph is on his way to arrest Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman), a local Little League coach and father of two daughters, when “The Outsider” starts. Ralph is so convinced Terry is the murderer that he arrests him in the midst of the Little League game, as Terry’s wife Glory (Julianne Nicholson), their children, and a large crowd of onlookers gasp in terror. Their nice, revered coach was just thrown into a police car and taken to prison. What may have prompted the cops to make such a big deal over his arrest? Terry is linked to the murder by fingerprints found at the crime scene, many eyewitnesses, and video evidence. So Ralph is aware that Terry was the perpetrator.
…unless he doesn’t, that is. When just as much evidence contradicts Terry’s guilt, what should be a clear-cut case pivots strangely. He was out of town when the youngster was killed with a group of people, and there’s footage of him speaking in public around the time the boy died.
All of this is shown in a startling and engrossing pilot episode that effectively glides through character introductions while setting up the drama of a particularly perplexing case. By the conclusion of the first hour (and again in the second), the viewer is left with two intertwined questions: how did Terry get away with it (since he had to do it) and who else could’ve done it (because Terry couldn’t have done it).
The series will receive a huge lift in the third episode with the introduction of Cynthia Erivo as the outside private investigator recruited to investigate a highly strange turn in the Maitland case, which HBO will wisely pair as the premiere.
That seems like an intriguing opening to a murder mystery, and it is, even if “The Outsider” isn’t a murder mystery at all. “Don’t worry, there will be an explanation for all this craziness,” the tale promises right away. And a lot of time in the early episodes is given to anchoring this dark and gritty drama; jokes about director Bateman’s typical low-lighting are already being made, but it’s an asset, not a drawback.
I never struggled to understand what was going on in “The Outsider.” The strong lines between the dark and bright areas of the screen, on the other hand, represent the competing values at play. What evil lies in the shadows might be mysterious, but so can what is visible in the light.
Mendelsohn and his co-stars also do an excellent job keeping the first few episodes on track. Ralph is instilled with a twitchy enthusiasm by the Emmy-winner from “Bloodline”; when he declares he has “no tolerance” for the incomprehensible, he means it. He can’t sleep, he can’t sit still, and all he can think about is how to go ahead. Ralph is always completely realized when you combine it with Mendelsohn’s expressive eyes.
Great actors like Jack Nicholson, Mare Winningham, Bill Camp, and Jeremy Bobb provide equal dimensionality in even less time. Cynthia Erivo steps in after the first two episodes with a character so full of quirks and cliches that she could’ve easily disconnected the whole thing. Still, Erivo embodies her with a deliberateness that keeps Holly Gibney tied to the rest of the show
Erivo’s private investigator, on the other hand, symbolizes the flip half of the coin. Holly is a trained dreamer, but Ralph is a firm believer in reality. She’s seen things she can’t explain and has come to terms with the fact that such unsolvable puzzles are a part of life. When she comes, “The Outsider” shows its real self: that this case isn’t going to be solved by typical police work; the answers to the difficult questions aren’t tied to a devious killer’s ingenious plot or a hint missed by the intrepid investigators. In a nutshell, the solution is magic.
OK, so “magic” isn’t the right word for an otherworldly explanation, but understanding that “The Outsider” isn’t a true crime story (or, more accurately, that it’s not a fictionalized crime story that represents reality) is crucial to enjoying the show — to the point where anyone expecting a realistic conclusion might be offended by the supernatural twist.
Most people are probably aware of Stephen King’s work because of his trademark, but the author doesn’t always depend on supernatural events to explain things; Andy Dufresne didn’t dig his way out of Shawshank. Price’s program performs a better job at teasing its hand than the book, owing to the fact that it progresses through the inquiry considerably quicker.
However, the series might still be doomed by the book’s greatest blunder. “The Outsider” must be a superb drama since it isn’t actually a murder mystery — at least, it doesn’t function as one. Good dramas include likable characters (check), life-changing situations (check), and often tackle relevant subjects brought up by these individuals and events. The subject at hand is faith.
What impact does our faith have on our lives? Can we be protected from anything if we don’t believe in it? Is it possible that having too strong a belief might harm us? Price poses these ideas via situations and sentences not seen in King’s work, encouraging his audience to consider more than “Did Terry Maitland murder that young kid?” There’s a new road to what may be a new finale after the first six episodes are presented for review. HBO’s “The Outsider” is already more rewarding, even if it returns to the novel. Is that enough to qualify it as excellent television? No, but it offers you cause to think it aspires to be.