Book Review: Joyland by Stephen King

written by David Steffen

Joyland is a mystery novel written by Stephen King and published in 2013 by Hard Case Crime.

Devin Jones is a college student living in New Hampshire who takes a summer job in 1973 at Joyland, a local amusement park as a jack of all trades, but especially for “wearing the fur” which is the expression for wearing the park’s dog mascot costume.  Besides the usual things one would expect from a college summer job–getting job experience, making friends, making money, Devin hears about an unsolved murder that happened inside the haunted house ride where a young girl’s throat was cut.  Tales of the murder catch the attention of Devin and his friends and they speculate about who did it and how they got away from the scant evidence available.  Devin also meets a wheelchair-bound young boy who is not long for this world and who might know more than he should.

I’m not a big reader of mystery books, so I’m probably not the best judge of whether any specific mystery book is a good one or not, but I enjoyed this reasonably well.  The patchy details of the murder are mentioned early on and were enough to catch my interest.  The carnie lingo and customs were interesting and were at least partially based on actual carnie lingo and customs (though not entirely, he freely admits in the author’s notes)).  It caught my interest earlier than many Stephen King books have of late so that was a plus.

When I think back about the whole book I feel like quite a bit of it was kind of meandering and longer than it needed to be, but I only really picked that apart in retrospect so it must’ve kept my attention well enough while I was reading it.

There is… probably… a supernatural element but it’s very slight if so, which does make it unusual on my reading list.

All in all, I enjoyed the read well enough.  I wouldn’t say there’s anything epic or groundbreaking here, but it succeeded at what it was doing.

Published by

David Steffen

David Steffen is an editor, publisher, and writer. If you like what he does you can visit the Support page or buy him a coffee! He is probably best known for being co-founder and administrator of The Submission Grinder, a donation-supported tool to help writers track their submissions and find publishers for their work . David is also the editor-in-chief here at Diabolical Plots. He is also the editor and publisher of The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List series. David also (sometimes) writes fiction, and you can follow on BlueSky for updates on cross-stitch projects and occasionally other things.

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