I don’t know how they do it—bestselling authors who deliver satisfying reads year after year. Among this season’s surefire bestsellers are two terrific novels from masters of their genres.
Stephen King’s The Outsider opens with every parent’s worst nightmare: Eleven-year-old Frankie Peterson is found raped and mutilated in a Flint City park. Detective Ralph Anderson is sure he has a slam-dunk case—it’s as airtight as he’s ever seen. The crime scene is dripping with evidence pointing toward beloved youth baseball coach Terry Maitland. Eyewitnesses recall seeing Maitland around town before and after the crime. Yet an alibi soon emerges that mystifies local authorities: At the time of the abduction, Maitland was at a work event miles away from Flint City. He’s even on video, and his fingerprints are found at his hotel.
King peppers The Outsider with the kind of eerie, nightmarish details that only he can conjure: a man with a melted face and straws for eyes who appears in a young girl’s bedroom; a pile of clothes found in a barn, stained black; and an abandoned cave where twin boys once died.
Can a man be in two places at once? Of course not. King’s creepy, exquisitely crafted, can’t-put-it-down tale offers a shocking possibility, one that stuns hardened law enforcement officials and threatens to destroy an entire community.
A totally different kind of terror envelops Kate Reddy, the Brit who won the hearts of millions of working mums in Allison Pearson’s smash debut, I Don’t Know How She Does It. In the wise and sparkling follow-up, How Hard Can It Be?, Kate faces the horrors of menopause and raising teenagers.
After years tending to kids and aging parents, Kate must now re-enter the working world to support her family. Her husband, Richard, is nursing a serious midlife crisis, having quit his job to spend most of his time cycling—or more precisely, buying expensive cycling equipment. Kate takes a midlevel position at the financial fund she set up a decade before, reporting to a man who was born the year she started college.
“I recognize his type immediately,” Kate says. “Self-styled hipster, metrosexual, spends a fortune on scruffing products and Tom Ford Anti-Fatigue Eye Treatment.”
Navigating the pitfalls of age discrimination, Kate soon demonstrates the kind of hustle that made her a financial star years before. Readers may wish she could show such moxie in her home life: Kate’s daughter uses a social media mishap to manipulate Kate into doing her homework; Kate’s son steals her credit card; and Richard, well, he makes a decision so horrible that one hopes he forgets to wear a helmet on his next bike ride.
How hard can it be? Pretty damn hard, Kate learns. But with great friends, a steely core and a clever mind, Kate shows that women can launch themselves off the mommy track and back into the world.