four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
33-Mar-Apr-2008
By: 
Stephen King
user_rating: 
0

A-Duma KeyThe prosperous life of Edgar Freemantle, a Minnesota construction mogul, changes in an instant when he becomes involved in a horrific work accident. Brain-damaged and now missing his right hand, Freemantle spirals into depression and loses everything dear to him. He moves to Duma Key, Florida, in an attempt to take stock of what’s left. While there, he discovers a remarkable, latent artistic ability, as well as a host of eccentric characters intent on nursing him back to health. Freemantle’s art is more than a coping mechanism, though. With the appearance of a pair of drowned twins and a goddess with an axe to grind, something weird is bound to happen.
Scribner. 611 pages. $28. ISBN: 1416552510

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Readers will find that the new novel leaves its comparatively ponderous predecessor [Lisey’s Story] far behind. At its core it’s a horror story, but with enough emotional complications to keep you turning the pages." Erica Noonan

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The last third of the book goes into overdrive, leading each of the people and objects strewn innocently trough the story to some kind of diabolical turn. … Although this last part ought to be the book’s most furious, the less action-packed aspects of the story manage to be just as compelling." Janet Maslin

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"Although the first half of the book reads like a fine piece of mainstream literature, with little in the way of the supernatural, King pulls out all of the stops in the second half. … King is at the height of his powers as a storyteller here." Mark Graham

St. Petersburg Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Whether you’re interested in such highfalutin stuff as theories of art and the reimagining of Greek myth, or you just want a delicious scare, King is in wonderful form in this book. One of the keys to his mastery of the horror genre is his knack for anchoring the most bizarre, unearthly events amid utterly believable everyday realism." Colette Bancroft

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"King’s new novel, Duma Key, is a tale of conflict between the forces of horror and the redemptive power of creativity. … King may be meditating on the diverse powers of the creative soul, but he has in no way lost his unmatched gift for ensnaring and chilling his readers with ‘terrible fishbelly fingers.’" Brigitte Weeks

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"No other popular novelist, perhaps no other contemporary novelist period, can take recognizable, ordinary people and put them through the wringer with such crackling panache while always keeping sight of their humanity. … The book is too long and creaks by the end, but as with the recent Lisey’s Story, there’s the thrilling sense of a master determined not only to flex his muscles but develop them too." Richard Rayner

Cleveland Plain Dealer 3 of 5 Stars
"Duma Key doesn’t disappoint the fan base, and King doesn’t take himself too seriously, which is part of the fun. … The writing can be quite good, and it can be wince-worthy—the unevenness of King’s work gave me whiplash." Karen R. Long

Critical Summary

It’s Stephen King, so we can dispense with the introductions. With Duma Key, the horror master returns to his bread and butter after a moderately successful departure in the character study Lisey’s Story ( 3 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2007). The latest effort is clearly autobiographical—most readers will remember King’s near-death experience when struck by a vehicle on a Maine highway in 1999—and the lingering physical and psychological effects of that accident figure prominently here. The book, which comes to us in Freemantle’s voice and runs its course in languid passages that only a writer of rare talent (and with nothing left to prove) might get away with, is also a meditation on the power of art and its discontents. The supernatural elements in Duma Key find King working at full throttle, with just a few pitchy parts.