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Joyland - Stephen King On the heels of a breakup, college student Devin Jones takes a summer job at an amusement park, an amusement park haunted by the ghost of a woman murdered on one of the rides. But what does that have to do with a woman and her dying child that Devin meets walking on a beach?

Stephen King throws the Hard Case line another bone with Joyland. Much like The Colorado Kid, it will undoubtedly draw much needed attention to the line despite not being like the other books.

Joyland is the story of Devin Jones trying to get his shit together after being dumped by his girlfriend. What better way to do that than to slave away at a carnival for 12 hours a day? Once Devin learns of the murder, he starts investigating. Well, the investigation is incidental. Mostly he works at the carnival, saving a couple lives along the way and meeting a kid with muscular dystrophy that he takes a liking to, as well as his foxy young mother.

Stephen King's writing is firing on all cylinders in this one and it's a relief that he wrote a story that's less than 800 pages for once. There are some anachronisms but they didn't yank me out of the story. I thought I knew who the killer was but King managed to pull the rug out from under me just before the big reveal.

I liked Devin a lot. He felt like an authentic 21 year old to me, something that a lot of writers can't seem to do. He was also pretty relatable. I think I had an early onset of the 21's and it lasted until I was about 24.

A quick side note: I like that King named a traveling circus after Manly Wade Wellman. I wonder how many people caught that reference.

The only gripe I have with this book is that it doesn't feel like a Hard Case. However, since it will let Hard Case keep the lights on for quite a while with the money it brings in, I'll let Uncle Steve off with a warning this time. Three stars.