You never know how brutal and gory Stephen King might get (well, if you read him, you know), but I have to give Joyland a hearty thumbs up for an entertaining summer read. King’s paperback pulp-style (look at the cover) novel centers on a narrator just getting over having his heart broken for the first time who ends up joining an aging amusement park in North Carolina for the summer. The story spins around Devon Jones (the narrator) coming to terms with life, a ghost story that leads to a murder investigation, and odd connections that Devin makes during the summer and beyond.
King is fairly restrained here, slowly building the suspense of a mystery underway, and it works. Joyland is a joy to read, and as part of a Hard Case Crime series of books, it is both a detective novel and a foray into the unknown (King territory) as one or two characters have the “gift” of vision beyond reality. These visions help Dev solve the case of a murdered girl, almost too late for his own good.
More importantly, King immerses the reader in the language and behind-the-scenes views of the carnival life, complete with the Talk (the ways in which carnies communicate with each other in a sort of code). That kind of attention to detail gives the story a real hook, and allows King to use his considerable writing talents to the benefit of character development and story.
Peace (in the carny world),