Eclectic Reader Challenge 2016 – Joyland – Stephen King


Genre: Crime, Supernatural

Narrative Style: First person recount

Published: 2013 – part of the Hard Case Crime series9781781162644

Rating: 3/5

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: Devin Jones takes a summer job at Joyland funfair and discovers the ghost of a girl murdered on the ghost train. After he and his friend Erin investigate, they discover other girls killed while the carnival was in town. Was there a serial killer on the loose?

Reading Challenges: Eclectic Reader Challenge 2016 – genre Serial Killers

That synopsis makes this story sound a whole lot more exciting than it really is. I was hoping for a hard boiled crime story with some blood and gore on the side. I haven’t read any Stephen King for a while (in fact that last one I read was probably Needful Things when that came out in 1991) but I was hoping for good things.

To be fair, a lot of the things that King is really good at are present here. The sense of Devin looking back on his life with a sense of nostalgia and pain was very well written. Devin himself was believable and likeable. The ghostly elements were quite well handled and I was willing to suspend my disbelief.

The problem was there was just too much other plot going on. The ghost is introduced quite early on and then there is a lot of setting the scene with Devin explaining about his soon to be ex-girlfriend. I kept thinking, when are we going to get on with the action. In the middle, there is a flurry of activity and we learn that there is indeed a serial killer but this is quickly put on the back burner again.

This is supposed to be a crime novel but it really wanted to be a romance. The story of Devin and Annie and her disabled son Mike was necessary to the plot but I felt it took up too much time. It really slowed the pace. As a consequence, when the killer is revealed at the end, it seemed rushed and unbelievable. I didn’t spot who the killer was although the clues were all there. That wasn’t the problem. I don’t want to give any spoilers but I found it unsatisfactory.

I haven’t read any of the other books in this series but in this case Hard Crime is a misnomer. There is nothing hard about this book. It is completely soft and the ending was overly sentimental and corny. I couldn’t help feeling that King could have done better.

Finally, I feel the carnival setting was ultimately wasted. Carnivals are a little strange and sinister at the best of times. This could have been exceptionally creepy. Instead, it is all giant dogs dancing the hokey cokey and disabled kids getting the ride of their lives. Too sweet for my tastes, I’m afraid.

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