Minor spoilers ahead.

It’s a simple story: college junior Devin Jones takes a summer job at an amusement park called Joyland – it’s no Disney World, but it’s grander than a county fair. There’s a mystery at the heart of the park, an unsolved murder committed inside the Horror House. There’s also a ghost: the dead woman’s spirit, some claim, still haunts the Horror House. She was holding out her hands, one witness says, like she was asking for help.  

Joyland is the second Stephen King book published by Hard Case Crime, a publisher specializing in pulp crime novels.  It is definitely not a horror novel, but it has a mystery, a crime to solve and a ghost.  

I was immediately drawn into the story, which begins with a heartbroken man named Devin Jones, taking a job at a small amusement park.  The park is more like a carnival than not and I found myself immersed in the story and the characters and finished reading it in less than a day.

The tone and flavor of the story, which takes place in 1973, were perfect and I loved every minute of my time spent in Joyland.

The first half of the novel is spent watching Devin Jones experience heartbreak and his new life at the amusement park.  The mystery and ghost are almost set aside for a while as we watch Devin's summer unfold.  Along the way, we learn lots about the way carnival people talk and act, which I found to be fun and painted a very clear picture of the time and place. 

As the weather starts to get colder, Devin's mind turns back to the mystery with the addition of a few new characters including a clairvoyant boy named Michael.  King writes children very well and Michael was no exception.

The climax of the story was satisfying and scary with some excellent action sequences.

Joyland definitely lives up to the Hard Case Crime name and is highly recommended by this constant reader.

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AuthorJoe Camillieri