Joyland, by Stephen King, is a Mystery/Crime which came out a few years ago and I never got around to reading it because I try to focus my reviews on Speculative Fiction. I found out I had made a mistake because this is an outstanding novel. It has an ease to it, like watching Michael Jordan make a basket when no one was guarding him. King is so experienced he seemed to just let this tale flow out of him effortlessly. Despite this, he hits emotional spots like a tested pro.
Stars: 4.5 Stars
Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths
The story centers on, Devin, a twenty-year old virgin who lost his first love at the beginning of summer break after he started college in 1972. Devin had discovered a job as a carny in the Joyland Amusement Park, in South Carolina, and traveled from New England to work there. It seemed like a fun idea for a summer break, but with a broken heart he found himself discovering how to be a real adult as he also learned how to run rides, trick rubes, and dance in a giant suit of fur in the middle of the summer.
Devin also discovers there are rumors the ghost of a girl killed by a serial killer, who was murdered in the fun house, remains within the funhouse haunting the dark ride. He meets a few people with the ‘Shine’ who help him along his journey to unravel who might have killed this girl and how he can overcome the pain he feels from losing his first love.
He makes good friends, Erin, and Tom who help with his investigation. Later he meets a dying boy and his single mother, and they play an important part in Devin’s growth. I will not tell you how the mystery ends, but I will say I guessed who the killer was and later I was proved correct.
This book can be a real tearjerker if you are not careful. Devin is a great guy, a straightforward Lawful Good type. He proved that with decent behavior a single person can make a better world through all the people lucky enough to be part of his life.
King knows what he is doing, and I cannot find much to throw mud at here. He could have focused a little more on the funhouse, but the book still works out. I did not give it the full 5 Stars, because it promises a mystery/crime but that is only a tiny percent of the novel.
If you want an emotional wild ride while exploring how an excellent writer can lay a simple and yet complex story at your feet, I will say this short novel should be fun for almost all readers.