Joyland by Stephen King © 2013 Titan
A story about investigating a serial killer and having the killer come after you. Devin Jones is a nice virginal college student who takes a summer job with a carnival, Joyland, where years ago a girl was murdered on one of the rides, the case never solved, and now her ghost supposedly haunts the ride. When Devin receives a Dear John letter from his college girlfriend, he decides to take a break from school and stay on at Joyland through the fall. The decision brings him into contact with a woman and child who will mend his broken heart, but also lands him on the murderer’s hit list when Devin amateur-sleuths into the unsolved crime.
Devin is a likeable character, and his personal story and relationships are the strongest part of the book. King also does an excellent job creating a “carny” atmosphere. An old woman and a young boy with psychic abilities, a la The Stand and The Shining, help move the plot. It’s typical King stuff and crime novel stuff, but King, as always, writes it so well the reader keeps entertained. The weakest point was failing to account through Devin’s personality or history why he would become so interested in the crime in the first place.
Joyland is surprisingly short for a King book, at 288 pages, and the quick nail-biter ending makes it feel over-before-you-know-it. The story is actually constructed like a roller coaster ride, 90% anticipation followed by 10% thrill and then you’re done. Given the carnival setting, this story construction was artistically perfect. Well worth the read, Joyland lands easily on my permanent bookshelf.