Is there joy in Joyland? It depends…
For me, reading Joyland was like buying a bag of regular potato chips and finding a baked, “healthy” alternative version inside. The new chips may technically be better, but If it’s not what you are looking for, they won’t satisfy.
Joyland is a coming of age novel. A young man is heartbroken when his girlfriend (who, goshdarnit, would never have sex with him) leaves him. To get over it, he takes a summer job at an amusement park – Joyland. While there he makes friends and thrills the hearts of children. Oh, by the way, a woman was murdered in Joyland some time ago–and it’s rumored that her ghost makes random appearances in the haunted house ride.
Will the young man get over his (ex)girlfriend? Will he ever get laid? Will he ever see the ghost? Will he give up the normal life and go full time as a carnival man? Will he figure out who turned the ghost into a ghost?
The problem for me is that the murder mystery takes a big back seat in the story. It’s almost an afterthought–with the solving of the crime coming to a rush at the end.
Joyland is written in first person, from the point of view of a middle aged man looking back on his young adult years. Great for a coming of age tale. Not so good for a mystery, since the narrator casually reveals the fate of his friends (they survive the summer) before getting around to solving the crime. It’s a suspense killer.
Joyland was published under the Hard Case Crime imprint which, according to its website, “brings you the best in hardboiled crime fiction, ranging from lost noir masterpieces to new novels by today’s most powerful writers, featuring stunning original cover art in the grand pulp style.”
Joyland definitely has the cover of an old fashioned, hardboiled crime novel but everything else…