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Book Review

Book Cover



Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, US $12.95, Cdn $12.95
ISBN: 978 1 78116 264 4
Publication Date: 07 June 2013

With the summer break coming up, Devlin Jones takes a job at Joyland, an aging but serviceable Amusement Park. Aged twenty-one, Devlin discovers that his relationship with his girlfriend, his first biggy, isn’t what he thought it was and as she drifts into the arms of another boy, Devlin drifts into depression. But life as a carnie suits him; he makes friends and becomes enthralled with the legend that the ghost of a murder victim still haunts the House of Horrors…

Joyland (283 pages) by Stephen King is a new novel from the line of Hard Case Crime series of novels.

King weaves together a tale of an unsolved series of murders, a coming of age and elements of the paranormal to produce a movingly human story. Most of King’s work holds one central truth, he does characters exceptionally well. Much of the book is taken up with the day to day concerns of Devlin, from his delight in dressing up like a big dog, entertaining the children in the amusement park, to his growing friendship with other kids working at Joyland.

We are introduced to his landlady and finally to Mike and Annie who will have an important impact on his life. The local carnie psychic initially gives Devlin some information, which comes true, but not in the way he was expecting. By introducing her King sets up the possibility that much more is possible and indeed is going on in the world of Joyland. By the time we finally meet Mike properly, the reader had been primed to accept his more developed psychic abilities, and this also allows credence to the idea that the House of Horror is indeed haunted by the ghost of Linda Gray.

The book is written as if the author was an elderly man who is writing down his memories of a summer long ago, as such the whole of the story is told from Devlin’s point of view, nothing which happens outside of his experienced is introduced. Spending so much time in Devlin’s story and head means that, on the one hand, we get to care what happens to him, although it also reduces some of the stories tension, as we already know that he lives to a ripe old age.

This isn’t one of Kings big stories, like The Stand (1978), it is a more personal piece, more reminiscent of The Green Mile (1996) or The Shawshank Redemption (1982) and is better for it. King's strength lies in his ability to write, with interest, about the minutia of seemingly ordinary lives and place his characters in extraordinary situations.

Dev is a good kid, dealing with his broken heart as young men are wont to do, with bad poetry and depressing music, his favourite is 'The End' by The Doors. At the amusement park he meets the colourful characters who run the rides and learns The Talk, carnie code for what they do and how they view their customers. Some of the carnies he meets are rough, some more welcoming. King also weaves in Dev’s personal life, with his friends, family and Annie. The mystery of the ghost is introduced fairly early and bookends the story, it never completely disappears but weaves its threads through the whole of the story.

Although, appearing in the Hard Case Crime imprint the story finishes up being much more than a murder mystery and I defy the reader to finish the last page without a lump in their throat.


Charles Packer

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