Joyland (Hard Case Crime) by Stephen King

source: purchased
title: Joyland
author: Stephen King
genre: crime/mystery/thriller
published: June 2013
pages: 288
rated: 3 out of 5 stars

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.

“I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts. That combo made Hard Case Crime the perfect venue for this book, which is one of my favorites. I also loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we’re going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being. Joyland will be coming out in paperback, and folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book.” – Stephen King

My Thoughts:
I read Joyland a few months ago and being that King is one of my favorite authors, I thought this would be the perfect ‘kick-off’ review post for my new blog.

Joyland is hard case crime mainly set in an North Carolina amusement park in the early 1970’s. The protagonist is college student Devin Jones who lives with his father, his mother passed from cancer a few years ago. Devin takes a part-time summer job at Joyland in order to make some extra cash, but ends up staying full-time in order to forget the girl who broke his heart.

Devin learns the amusement part lingo, dresses up as the mascot and finds that he enjoys actually working at Joyland. This is an enchanted world for Devin, one where he feels he fits right into but the amusement park has a dark secret. A woman was murdered in a ride called Horror House and her ghost is said to haunt the ride. The murderer was never found but the woman who was killed can sometimes be seen during the ride at night.

Working at Joyland has brought some people into Devin’s life, like single mom Annie and her young and terminally ill son, Mike. The three become friends and it is revealed that Mike has the ‘sight’. Devin sets off on somewhat of an amateur sleuth mission in order to find out who murdered the woman who now haunts Horror House.

I found Joyland to be very mild on the scary factor, which I expected since it is a crime novel, not a horror story. Devin is a likeable character and I liked how King develops him. I enjoyed Annie and Mike’s storyline as well. King does a good job at setting everything up, the amusement park setting, the characters and the murder mystery all went together smoothly and made sense.

Having said that, while I enjoyed reading this one, I didn’t love it. It just didn’t catch my attention like I wanted it to. I think I would have liked to see more ghosts and things that go bump in the night to up the thrill factor. It’s okay though, I still love King and his fantastic storytelling.

Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of Joyland (Hard Case Crime) by Stephen King.

19 thoughts on “Joyland (Hard Case Crime) by Stephen King

  1. Naida, thanks for sharing your honest thoughts about Joyland. I’ve had my eye on this one, and now I kind of know what to expect. An amusement park seems like the perfect setting for this book (I used to go to a Playland as a kid) .


    • Hi Suko. My mom used to take us to Kiddie Land when I was little 🙂 I liked the small amusement park setting here, I think that kind of place has a lot of creepy potential.


  2. It doesn’t surprise me that King would choose a carnival environment 🙂 The eccentric people and spooky surroundings usually make for good horror, though it’s a shame that this one turned out milder than you hoped for.

    I don’t know if you’ve read this yet, but I’m reading The Diviners by Libba Bray, and it’s turning out to be an entertaining well-researched book. It’s set in the 1920s, largely in NYC, with a group of teenagers (who don’t know each other at the start) and each one has some strange secret power they don’t fully understand (like the ability to see into another person’s past by holding a personal belonging). A series of ritualistic murders is underway in the city, and behind it what could be a fringe religious sect… and it’s a pretty entertaining read, though some of the characters don’t get to participate in as much of the actions as others (I think they’re getting set up for the next book).


    • Hi HKatz, yes, the carnival setting is a good one.
      I have The Diviners on my wishlist. I’d heard good things about it. I hope you enjoy it! I look forward to your thoughts on it if you review it.


  3. My husband has a nice collection of Hard Case Crime books, but I think he stopped collecting and reading them a few years ago. I am pretty sure he hasn’t read this one. Stephen King is hit and miss with me. I definitely would prefer more thriller than horror, so perhaps I would like this one.


    • Hi Literary, I don’t read too much hard case crime, I grabbed this one because of King. You might enjoy this one if you prefer the thrillers to the horror stories.


  4. Aww, too bad it wasn’t spookier. When you mentioned the ghost, I thought it would be! I’m intrigued by the carnival setting though, plus cool that it was set in the 1970s.


  5. I almost picked this up when I first saw it. I’m glad I didn’t because I’m expecting it to be horror since Stephen King is well known and so good in writing that genre. Still, I’m glad you enjoyed reading this.


  6. Hi Naida,

    I haven’t read any Stephen King books for many years, although so many blogs have featured his books just lately, that my interest has been piqued anew and I have added a couple of titles to my ‘Want To Read’ list.

    I have to say that I love the cover art of ‘Joyland’ and having looking at all the King book covers together in one place on Fantastic Fiction, it does seem a little out on a limb and so unlike any of the other cover designs.

    I used to go to school with the child of one of the largest travelling fairs in the country. The company is in fact still very active on the circuit and, I understand, now under the management of my school companion. The equivalent of a US ‘carny’, or an Australian ‘showy’, is a British ‘showman’.

    A thoughtful review, despite this book not quite meeting your expectations – Better luck next time 🙂



    • Hi Yvonne 🙂 He’s an old favorite and the author that really got me into reading. I like the cover art on Joyland, the vintage look of it. That’s interesting about your schoolmate! Thanks for stopping and and for your thoughtful comments as always.


  7. I haven’t read a King book in ages but this one I really would like to read. I just love the setting – carnivals just seem like the perfect place for strange happenings don’t they?


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