Monday, January 19, 2009

Duma Key by Stephen King

Duma Key by Stephen King (audio)
Protagonist: Edgar Freemantle
Setting: Duma Key, Florida
Rating: 5.0

I was wary of horror master Stephen King’s latest book, and sought out opinions before deciding whether to even read it (after all, it is a long book, and I’d grown tired of King’s books, which all seemed to have the same voice). But this, muchachos (as Edgar’s friend Wireman would say), is one great book. Yes, there are elements of the supernatural, but they don’t overwhelm the story, which is really about Edgar, redemption, and good and evil.

Owner of a construction company, Edgar loses an arm and suffers brain injury in a horrific crane accident. He sells his business. His wife, unable to put up with his bouts of anger, divorces him. So Edgar takes his psychologist's advice and moves far from Minneapolis – to the fictional Duma Key island off Florida’s West coast. Here, he astounds the Florida art scene with his Dali-like paintings. But his hand is guided, in part, by some other force and his works are more than paintings – they are a window into the future and the past. His life and his experiences are intertwined with the only other residents of Duma Key – the elderly Elizabeth Eastlake and her caretaker, Wireman, both of whom have also experienced the island’s eerie power. A battle of good versus evil eventually ensues.

This book unravels slowly, and wonderfully. Much of the first part is gothic, but then King starts ratcheting up the suspense – and the terror. This is undeniably a King book, but a different kind of King. It also may be one of his finest works. I’m glad I didn’t miss out on it.

Other recent reads:

The Demon of Dakar by Kjell Eriksson
Protagonist: Ann Lindell
Setting: Uppsala, Sweden
Rating: 3.0
Although this is billed as an Ann Lindell mystery, there is little to be seen of the detective or her colleagues. The book focuses more on the victims and killers (yes, plural – there are several bad guys). The first murder is that of restaurateur and drug smuggler Armas, killed by the brother of a Mexican man who was caught and jailed for smuggling drugs for Armas. There are several characters and several stories in this book, and they do intersect at some point. While the stories are interesting, and the book was readable, it was very light on the police procedural aspects. This could have been a stronger book with more of an emphasis on the detective work. It also could have been a better-edited book. If typos annoy you, this book will have you gritting your teeth.

Lamb to the Slaughter by Aline Templeton
Protagonist: Det. Insp. Marjory Fleming
Setting: Kirkluce, Scotland
Rating: 4.7
Now this is the way to write a police procedural. Strong detectives with interesting family lives, and a good mystery, of course. A sheep is killed, then an elderly but influential man in town, and finally a young thug. They don’t seem to have anything in common, yet the detectives are convinced there is only one killer. Meanwhile, town residents are divided over a big grocery chain that wants to move in, which would force out the craft center. Elderly residents are being terrorized by motorcycle-riding teens. And Fleming’s own teenage daughter is caught up in the lure of these bad boys. Templeton writes about these small towns with wonderful details (even if they aren’t real) and creates just-as-interesting characters.

Rating system:
5.0: Wow!
4.0: A book I'd recommend
3.0: Mediocre to good
2.0: Pretty Bad


Martin Edwards said...

I share your enthusiasm for Aline Templeton - an under-rated writer.

Anonymous said...

Duma Key was great, thanks for the suggestion.

Anonymous said...

I loved Duma Key....its my fav King novel and I've read them all.