Words I love to hear year round but even more so during September and October when Carl from stainlesssteeldroppings is hosting a special reading event called
R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril or R.I.P. The participants have to read at least one story or watch a movie that belongs to any of the genres mentioned above. I really enjoyed participating last year with The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert, Bedtime Stories – Edited by Diana Secker Tesdell and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, so I decided to join again this year. The event ends October 31st so there’s still time if you decide to take part.
The first book on my list is Stephen King’s short novel Joyland, which came out this year.
Devin Jones, the main protagonist, is a college student who takes a summer job at Joyland, an amusement park run by an elderly gentleman, Mr. Easterbrook. It’s 1973 and Devin plans to go to college the following year. His mother is dead and his father lives alone in a big house, mourning his wife’s death.
The summer job turns out to be quite enjoyable. The work is physically demanding and the pay not that great but Devin makes a few friends and begins to like it more and more. It’s also a good distraction from thinking about his girlfriend Wendy all the time.
The people working at the amusement park get along with each other for the most part – Lane Hardy is all smiles and encouragement, Rozzie the fortune teller does have some fortune telling abilities which people don’t take seriously until they come true, and Tom and Erin are just college students like Devin, working summers to save some money towards their education.
That summer Devin meets a little girl whose life he saves, and a little boy whose life he can’t, and both encounters affect him profoundly. Then there’s the Horror House, a place where a few years ago a girl was killed, her body found by the staff, her murder a mystery for years. Some claim to have seen her at the place where she was murdered, her spirit wandering, seeking closure. Devin becomes intrigued by the mystery and with Erin’s help starts putting together the facts in the hope of discovering her killer, a bold move which nearly costs him his life and the lives of the ones he cares about.
First I have to say that murder mysteries are not really my cup of tea, unless it’s Sherlock Holmes doing the investigating, and of course everything has to take place in a Victorian setting. That being said, I love King’s books and so decided not to skip this one. His writing is easy to follow, the story built up nicely, the characters intriguing – I really hoped to see more of Rozzie, or Madame Fortuna – her working name at the amusement park, but she only plays a small role in the story. The little boy in the wheelchair was another interesting addition, and so was his little dog, Milo.
It took me a while to get used to the “carny” lingo – specific words used by the staff at the amusement park, and had to go back once or twice to remember what certain terms meant. What I really enjoyed were the references to other writers or their work: Charles Dickens, George Orwell, Joyce Carol Oates, and I may have missed a few others. And Devin Jones, or Jonesy as some people called him, reminded me of a character in “Dreamcatcher”, another one of King’s books. I treasure these little gems.
If you’re looking for a horror novel, this is not it. Or maybe I have read too many and crave the intensity of not knowing what happens next, that pure adrenaline rush when your body turns cold and the benign shapes in the room become monsters. A murder mystery, definitely, with a bit of supernatural thrown in for an interesting flavor and just a sprinkle of horror. That being said, it was a good story and I had fun getting lost in it for a few days. I look forward to reading “Doctor Sleep”, King’s latest novel and the sequel to “The Shining”, which I have yet to read as well.