Joyland by Stephen King is a departure from his usual fare. It’s published as Hard Case Crime novel and is a sort of murder mystery with a side of ghost story thrown in. I loved it. I lost myself in this book and the clearly, cleverly painted world of the carnies with their colorful language and rickety rides. The story is about Devin, who during college gets a summer job at Joyland amusement park, where there’s an old legend about a girl who was murdered on one of the rides. He’s told she still haunts the place and has reason to believe that’s the case, minus ever getting any visual confirmation. He sets out to determine who it was that killed her all those years ago and along the road, meets lifelong friends and changes the life of one special kid.
For a murder mystery, it was a damn touching one. For a Stephen King book, this isn’t surprising. Any true SK fan knows how much heart exists in his books, how much soul. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this format. I’m not much of a mystery buff, but he nailed it. The ghost story was compelling and the personal stories were real and hopeful and heartbreaking all at once. I truly didn’t want to put this book down. It was an easy read, not one of SK’s heftier tales, and went by in a flash.
Given how successful this mystery outing was, I’d hope that he would tackle more Hard Case Crime novels in the future. It’s a good genre for him and he even nailed the ending. So many people talk about SK and his endings, but this one wrapped right up with all the tees crossed and the I’s dotted. Doesn’t mean it ended happily, mind you, but it ended soundly. Some of my favorite work from him are the ones that deviate from his norm – The Eyes of the Dragon (fantasy) and Joyland’s meandering mystery one summer in the life of Devin Jones.