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Book Review: Duma Key by Stephen King


Duma KeyDuma Key by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been a Stephen King fan for many years. I think I was 15 when I read my first King, It, followed by Misery. I then read his full back catalogue at the time. I have to admit that the only books of his that don’t work for me at all are The Dark Tower ones. They never clicked, but I still intend to try again, eventually.

In recent years, I always felt the quality of his work decline. Some of his least favorites for me are From a Buick 8, The Girl who loved Tom Gordon and Dreamcatcher. The last book I truly loved was Hearts of Atlantis. But enough of my King backstory.

Duma Key is written from the first person view of Edgar Freemantle, a man in his 50s who had a terrible accident. His car was crushed by a crane on one of his construction sites, causing him to lose his right arm, some of his memory and his temper. In order to recover and find himself again, he moves to Florida, to a small island called Duma Key, where he discovers art. Until his art turns sinister.

That’s about the plot. It builds slowly, and from the start King uses heavy amounts of foreshadowing that just keep you reading. Everything seems idyllic, and yet at the same time not. You know bad shit’s about to happen, and it does. The book very closely reminded me of The Shining in its way. A similarly deserted setting, though not quite as deserted as the Overlook Hotel, and the protagonist discovers his calling. There are dead people and mysteries of the past to be solved, to find out what really happened on the island of Duma Key. It was also vaguely reminiscent of Pet Sematary at the end of the book.

The pacing seems off a bit, there are long stretches where nothing but character building and exposure happen, and then the last part turns a bit frantic.

Ultimately, I thought it was great entertainment. I enjoyed the characters, though I sometimes thought Wireman was irritating, and Jack seemed a bit of a pale cardboard sidekick. It’s no second The Shining, despite my earlier comparison, but if you enjoy Stephen King, you might enjoy this book of his as a return to old form.

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