I read Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (1962) years ago and never forgot it. I've reread it several times, and always find something new in the story of a traveling carnival lead by Mr. Dark, whose followers are marked by tattoos.
I felt the same way when I listened to Stephen King's "Joyland" (2013), even though the plots of the books are quite different. The atmosphere is the same, and so is the sense of evil. The carnival rides play a key part in both.
"Joyland" is a regional 'Six Flags' type of amusement park, not an international destination like Disneyland. I loved the new 'carny' language I learned. Guess that makes me a 'greenie', but at least I'm not a 'rube' if I know the lingo. That makes this the perfect book for a patient parent to listen to/read if she's been drafted as chaperone on one of those long, hot summer days of not-quite-cutting edge rides, junk food, and sunburned children excited enough to throw up on her shoes.
"Joyland" is a true mystery. Solving the mystery does not rely on the supernatural elements in "Joyland", so mystery fans won't be disappointed by vague clues from beyond being the key to figuring out 'who dunnit'. Finding the killer was no easy task for Devin Jones, the protagonist (aptly narrated by Michael Kelly) and it isn't easy for the listener/reader either.
"Joyland" is also a sweet coming of age story of love lost and love found, set against the backdrop of the most powerful love of all.
This book has some mild, not explicit sex. There is some violence, but it doesn't come near the violence in J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series. It's good for 'young adult' readers. For Stephen King fans, there are plenty of references to his other works - and it's fun to find them. However, the book stands on its own - you don't need to get the inside joke from King's "The Dead Zone" (1979) to love the story.
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I have half a dozen "Noir" books sitting on my bookshelf. Each book is a collection of short stories by top notch writers. They're fun to read when traveling to a new city, or revisiting a favorite place. If you live in Southern California, "Los Angeles Noir" (2007) and "Los Angeles Noir 2" (2010) are an eerie homage to Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane.
I'm not familiar with most of the writers in "Belfast Noir" (2014), except Lee Child, a British writer who created the adventurer investigator and hero, Jack Reacher. Well, I'm not as familiar with those authors - yet. What's neatest about each book is there's always a story that resonates with me. Ruth Dudley's "Taking it Serious" is going to echo always - and so is Glenn Patterson's "Belfast Punk REP." I'll be able to think of the stories, close my eyes, and remember where I was when I heard them the first time. Unfortunately, that was on the 605 North stuck in unrelenting early evening "rush hour" traffic that really should be called "slow to stop hour traffic". That's the drawback of an Audible listen, but it's a small sacrifice for a good story instead of inane radio hosts chattering on about celebrity arrests.
Like so many Americans, I've got a strong Irish immigrant background. I grew up knowing about 'The Troubles', but I hadn't really thought much about them since the Good Friday Agreements of 1998. Some of the stories - like Lucy Caldwell's "Poison" are time and location independent. A lot aren't, so the book has a historical and geographic introduction that helps put those stories in perspective. Almost all of "Belfast Noir" is narrated by voice actors using Ulster accents, which I enjoyed.
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