Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Hard Case Crime
American release date: June 4, 2013
Format/Genre/Length: Novel/crime/288 pages
Publisher/Industry Age Rating: not rated/mature readers
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
It’s the summer of ’73, and school’s out, but college student Devin Jones finds himself at loose ends when his girlfriend takes a job in Boston, along with a friend of hers, leaving him behind. Not sure what to do with himself, Fate intervenes when he finds an ad in the back of a magazine. Help wanted at Joyland.
And thus begins the summer that will change his life forever.
Joyland is an independent amusement park in North Carolina whose mascot is Howie the Hound. All the kids love Howie; he’s an institution. After a quick interview with Fred Dean, Devin is told to look around the place, see if he likes it, and that’s when he meets Lane Hardy and Madame Fortuna. The fortune teller tells him about a little girl with a red hat, carrying a doll, in his future. Also a boy with a dog. Not that Devin believes in such things, but he listens politely. And he decides to take the job. While he’s there, he reserves a room at Mrs. Shoplaw’s and returns home to get ready to come back for the summer.
Devin quickly learns the ropes and the talk, and before he knows it, he feels like a real carnie. Part of his job, it turns out, is playing the part of Howie the Hound, a hot job at best in that big old fur suit. But thanks to that suit, Devin changes lives. And things begin to come true.
He finds himself becoming more and more invested in his life there. Which is good, because what he thought he had was nothing more than an illusion. But can he be sure that what he thinks he knows is real? Especially after he saves a life... and then he meets the boy with the dog... and his mother. And then there is the girl who was found murdered in the house of horrors...
If you’re looking for a typical Stephen King horror story, stop right here. This isn’t that. This is not horror at all, so forget your preconceived notions. This is good old-fashioned thriller in the noir tradition. With a twist only Stephen King can give.
Devin is the narrator, so we see everything through his eyes, as this becomes a pivotal summer in his life. The story is told years later, as he looks back on what was. It’s both a coming of age story and a whodunit, mixed in with a touch of the supernatural.
The writing is pure Stephen King. It flows smoothly. I found myself finishing the book in record time. The characters are well-drawn and memorable. I would recommend this not only to Stephen King’s fans, but to those who love a good murder mystery.
This is a return to an earlier Stephen King. I confess to having not read him in a long time, but I think I shall have to pick up the habit again. I hear he has something out called Dr. Sleep – have to check that out next.