Monday, July 19, 2010

Book review: Joyride by Jack Ketchum

Joyride by Jack Ketchum
304 pages (including a bonus novella Weed Species)
Re-issue of 1995 novel (AKA Roadkill)

I really enjoyed Ketchum's novel Red, and let me just say that his novel “the Girl Next Door” is one of the most brutal and intense horror novels I ever read. I was excited to crack open this book, but in the end I was disappointed. Joyride is the story of Carole and her lover Lee. Carole's powerful ex-husband wouldn't leave her alone, and no matter how he harassed her, or in some cases violently attacked and raped her, he seems to get away with it every time. Lee and Carole make the decision to pull off the perfect murder. It would have been perfect if a bartender Wayne didn't happen to be in the woods watching them. After they show up in his bar, he decides to black mail them, not for money but to re-kindle the excitement of the murder on a trip of serial killings.

Ketchum has a excellent reputation in horror and Leisure understands that a Ketchum book will come packaged with a new Stephen King blurb. Each one of his last few books have hyperbolic King declarations my favorite being that you wont sleep until Christmas if you read this book. This time King says you shouldn't open this book unless your ready to finish that night. So maybe after you finish this review you'll take his word over mine. Without the well earned reputation that Ketchum has this novel would never have seen print.

The central plot to Joyride to me is too much of stretch. Wayne happens to be in the woods at the right time to see the murder, and they happen to come into his bar the next day. Ok fine I'll go with it, but the major problem here is the structure. The novel begins with Carole's ex-husband breaking in and raping her, at least I think it does. Everything happens so quick at the beginning I wasn't sure who was who yet. And when Carole and Lee murder her powerful ex-husband I didn't know enough about the story to really understand why I cared. Why murder? Why not go to police?

After the murder and before the main blackmail plot began, the novel's point of view shifts to the cop who had been following Carole's ex-husband and the case, now he is charged with investigating his murder. It is from his point of view that we get the horrible back story of Carole's marriage. This is the most horrific part of the novel. The problem is we are not shown this part of the tale, we are told this is part of the tale.

To me the abuse Carole suffered in her marriage and the breaking point she reaches is the most compelling part of the novel. By the time we learn those details there is no pay-off, no revenge to be had. He is already dead. I didn't find the storyline of Wayne black mailing them and taking them on a serial killing road trip to be compelling or believable. Characters are quickly introduced in obvious attempts to make us care in time for them to become victims.

Joyride reminded me of the Brad Pitt movie Kalifornia which did a better job of putting a couple in this situation. I did not enjoy this novel, only libraries that are serious about having complete horror collections really need to get this one. If you don't have any Ketchum in your collection your better off starting with Red, Offseason or The Girl Next Door.

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