Written by: Lou Rera
Stephen King is often at his best when true evil turns out to be just another human gone off the tracks. In Joyland, the mystery involves a murderous ride through a haunted house attraction as the protagonist, Devin Jones tries to solve the “whodunit.”
King is superb in weaving pop culture, everyday events and memories into his stories. In Stephen King’s, The Body (Stand By Me for those who saw the film version), he takes us through the angst of growing up and interpersonal conflict resolution with friends, with a good dose of coming to terms with the idea death and mortality.
Joyland’s main theme deals with the fun of the carnival and growing up with the smells of popcorn and cotton candy, with good times guaranteed by Howie the Happy Hound. But we all know there is a seedy underbelly to it all, and in this case, the unsolved murder of a beautiful young woman lurks somewhere near the surface of summertime fun.
Stephen King sometimes misses with aliens and monsters, but he’s nailed the psychopathic nature of a narcissistic killer in this tale. His characters are strong and believable. There are very real emotions involving relationships, both close and tangential. I could smell the ocean on the many trips, to and from Joyland. At the end of a summer, when memories are boarded up with the promise of another year, it reminds us that there are some things best left for the past, and to keep moving forward and never look back.