Stephen King, the world’s best selling author, is back with his first novel with Hard Case Crime, called Joyland. At King’s request the novel is only available in paperback and not in e:format to encourage people back in to physical bookshops.
It’s summer in North Carolina, 1973 and Devin Jones is looking for a season of summer work to keep himself occupied while his girlfriend is away and to keep some money in his pocket. When he spots an add for Joyland he thinks it could be just what he needs and after an intriguing interview he takes the job. Sad to be parting with his girlfriend but excited to start his new job he throws himself headfirst into his new role. Even the creepy fortune teller and the stories of the ghost ride being haunted don’t unnerve him.
A few weeks later when the love of his life breaks his heart and he discovers the rumours about the haunting are based around a real murder, his confidence is shaken. A girl had her throat cut during the ghost ride, was pushed off the ride in the dark while her killer left his gloves and bloody shirt behind, free to walk away after the ride finished with no one suspecting a thing. As he mourns his relationship and tries to find solace in his work, the death of the girl stays with him. Once his season is up and most of his colleagues return to home or colleges, Devin decides to stay on at Joyland full time but with a killer on the loose this turns out to be one of the most dangerous decisions he’s ever made.
Joyland takes the brilliantly creepy location of a funfair and pushes all the right unnerving buttons. Yes, Devin is a bit of a sap but most people fall to pieces when they loose their first love so that’s understandable. King goes into quite a lot of detail about ‘carnie’ culture and some of the lingo that’s used to add to the feel of the book. He also manages to eek in a little bit of the paranormal but not enough to detract from the Hard Case Crime novel that it is. There is an awful lot of detail about Devin’s day to day work life inside Joyland which does leave you egging the story to move on at one point but once the action picks up Joyland really pulls you in.
Overall Joyland is incredibly fun and enjoyable novel. Here’s hoping that Stephen King releases more novels in this pulp styling that seems to suit his work so well.