Heartache, murder, new beginnings, friendships, and a haunting are the themes behind Stephen King's JOYLAND. Devin Jones embarks on a personal journey to mend his broken heart by absorbing the facts associated with a local crime mystery/ghost story that soon leads to an investigation of sorts which threatens deaden this new lease on life.
What starts as a summer job working as a Carney becomes much more for Devin. Being separated from his first love Wendy and knowing the distance is more than geographical, his heartache is core to his actions. Taking a fondness toward certain jobs at JOYLAND sees Devin become a local hero, ultimately putting his personal grief to the side and paving the way for a new person to enter the frame.
The criminal element is always there yet on the peripheral. This is a character driven story first, crime/ghost story second. Being a Stephen King novel there was always going to be an element of the supernatural/other worldly, yet in JOYLAND its delivered in a subtle manner that suits the tone of the book. The ghost story doesn't get in the way of what King's trying to achieve with Devin.
I loved the atmosphere and real sense of Joyland being a summer escape. The essence of the Carney life is capture beautifully with Devin a different sort of protagonist, made better by a solid supporting cast.
Despite not having as much of a focus on the ghost story/haunting as I'd expected, I still enjoyed JOYLAND.
On a side note, I've previously mentioned how attracted I am to good book covers, ones that especially portray a character in appropriate fashion and/or set the mood for the story contained within. JOYLAND does both. Erin, is a Hollywood girl who I imagine looks much like the cover model, her job is to take snap shots of the people who visit Joyland. She's also Devin's partner in compiling evidence surrounding the reason behind the haunting at Joyland, the cover art depicts this perfectly.
What the cover doesn't show is just how fractured and unassuming Devin is, how endearing and honest, how heroic and emotional this unlikely protagonist is. That is a treat for the reader to enjoy. The cover does the job, it draws the attention, has meaning and compliments the story.