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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does short = sweet?
First up: I'm a huge Stephen King fan and have read pretty much everything he's ever written (yes, including the sprawling, genre-defying Dark Tower series) and have weathered the great and not-so-great works he's produced over the years.

So how does Duma Key compare?

If you're looking for the gory, Hammer-style horror of Salem's Lot or the epic...
Published on 17 Nov 2008 by R. Cornthwaite

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts well, ends... less well,
Edgar Freemantle, a successful building contractor, suffers terrible injuries in a site accident. In order to recover from his hurts, mental and physical, he relocates to a small island off the coast of Florida where he spends his days painting beautiful Mexican Gulf sunsets. But, as his works become disturbingly surreal, he begins to wonder whether his new-found talent...
Published on 14 Sep 2011 by Crookedmouth


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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does short = sweet?, 17 Nov 2008
By 
R. Cornthwaite (Essex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Duma Key (Hardcover)
First up: I'm a huge Stephen King fan and have read pretty much everything he's ever written (yes, including the sprawling, genre-defying Dark Tower series) and have weathered the great and not-so-great works he's produced over the years.

So how does Duma Key compare?

If you're looking for the gory, Hammer-style horror of Salem's Lot or the epic scale of The Stand, then I'm going to hazard a guess that this book won't be for you. The Stephen King of today (as opposed to 20/30 years ago) is a much more subtle author - gone are the breakneck, rollercoaster, breathless confrontations and instead comes a more low-key sense of fear and menace. Duma Key isn't a short book, as several other reviewers have taken pains to point out, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There's much to be appreciated and savoured here from a writer who has the experience and the craft to write a great story... it just might not be the one you were expecting.

Duma Key refers to a small island in the Florida Keys where the main character, Edgar Freemantle, hides himself away for physical and spiritual rehabilitation after a horrific accident on a building job which leaves him scarred and missing his right arm. His wife wants to divorce him, he's angry all the time, and his broken body feels like it belongs to someone else. His recovery is slow but helped by the sea and tranquility at Big Pink, the salmon-coloured artist's hideaway he's renting from the mysterious Elizabeth Eastlake, a very elderly and reclusive woman who owns half the island. Doesn't sound like much, does it? But be patient, because this book has atmosphere in spades. The genuinely sweet growing friendship between Edgar and Elizabeth's companion Wireman is offset by Edgar's sudden, frantic and all-consuming desire to paint and draw, a latent talent that the brooding island unleashes, but which hints at powers beyond his control... powers which have a price. Wireman has his own special "gift" that Duma Key intensifies, but he's haunted by the death of his wife and child, and is struggling with the gradual decline of his much-loved but fragile employer. Elizabeth is slowly succumbing to Alzheimer's but in her increasingly rare lucid episodes she hints at her own past and her ties to the dark forces on the island. How did her twin sisters die? What happened to her family? Why is Duma Key not a safe place for daughters? Any why do Edgar's paintings keep coming back to a dark and sinister ship on the blood-coloured Florida horizon?

This book is as much about the ties that bind people as it is about supernatural beings and things that go bump in the night, but King has an excellent ear for dialogue and a real knack for laying bare the truest of human emotions. The "climax" of the book is definitely a slow burner (like the rest of it, I hear you shout) and that won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoyed the slower pace and the build-up. This to me felt like a Stephen King story where the people were real; their limitations, fears and frustrations were genuine and believable (well, for the most part - I do agree with the reviewer who compared Edgar's daughter Ilse to a 5 year old, she got a little wearing).

In summary it's not a book for everyone but if you've got the time to sit down and enjoy something slower, and more subtle, than previous efforts it's worth a go. Perhaps if you've been put off Stephen King before thanks to the "schlock horror" reputation of his work this is the place to start - great characterisation and much less in the way of slobbering, shrieking monsters every 20 pages or so. It's a change of scene and a change of pace for King - but the scares are still there, just a little less in-your-face. So why not give it a go?

As Wireman might say, do the book, and let the book do you.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars just wonderful..., 29 Jan 2008
This review is from: Duma Key (Hardcover)
and I write as one who also thought King had lost his way (as did |Heinlein, as the years wore on). I hated Dreamcatcher, quite liked Cell.. but the end of the Dark Tower series really left me flat. Oh, and Lisey's Story wasn't terribly good. But Dura Key was wonderful... his style of writing which, if we are all honest, keeps us reading the stories which aren't so good... paid off again. I can't remember a book which last pulled me in so much and, for me, he has combined his storytelling ability (hard to surpass) with a bit of the old 'supernatural' King. In my view, his ability to tell a story has never diminished; but his later stories have been less than gripping in spite of that. Duma Key is just wonderful; his prose and lyrical storytelling is A1. I truly hope they never attempt to make a film of this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts well, ends... less well,, 14 Sep 2011
By 
Crookedmouth ":-/" (As seen on iPlayer) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Duma Key (Paperback)
Edgar Freemantle, a successful building contractor, suffers terrible injuries in a site accident. In order to recover from his hurts, mental and physical, he relocates to a small island off the coast of Florida where he spends his days painting beautiful Mexican Gulf sunsets. But, as his works become disturbingly surreal, he begins to wonder whether his new-found talent comes from within or without.

I have noted elsewhere that King's prodigious output can cover a lot of bases; his novels swinging from conventional horror to conventional thriller and all points betweeen. In Duma Key we have what appears to be (more on that later) a rather fine psychological horror with just a dash of the supernatural thrown in to add some spice. All is well: King has been doing this sort of thing very nicely since beginning; The Shining being the first (probably - I don't think that Carrie qualifies for the "psychological" classification).

It is classic King: a cleanly written, voluminous page-turner; lots (and lots) of extraneous detail that builds a rich environment and drags the reader deep into the story; plenty of clearly visualised, interesting and likeable characters and a liberal salting of folksy American charm. Literature? King has been treated rather nastily by some critics who compare his work, unfavourably, to the "penny dreadfuls" of another age. That sounds like pure snobbery to me and I rather like the argument made by Orson Scott Card that 'King's work most definitely is literature, because it was written to be published and is read with admiration. What (King's critics) really mean is that it is not the literature preferred by the academic-literary elite.' So, you may not find King on the Man Booker shortlist, but you will find him being read with pleasure by millions of discerning readers. Duma Key qualifies (largely - I'm getting to that!) on that score and I would guess that most of King's readers wil agree that Duma Key is no worse (or better?) than any of his other books.

What lets the book down, I'm afraid, is the ending. The first three quarters is, as I've said, a jolly fine psycho-chiller. There's a supernatural thread that runs through it that is part of the plot and that's fine; the supernatural doesn't offend me in the least and it fits perfectly within the context of the story as one is led to wonder whether the ghostly goings on are manifestations of Freemantle's inner demons. And then, at the end, King goes all Pirates of the Carribean on us and the psycho-novel turns into what is basically a monster or zombie story. It is a terrible let down that threatens to destroy the tension (as well as the credibility) of the bulk of the novel. Now let me say that I also have no problem with this genre either and King of course does it well also (It, Pet Sematary, Insomnia). It is the *sudden transition* between the two genres that jars. Imagine if Sigourney Weaver had escaped the Nostromo, only to be abducted by Tim Burton's Martians. Or if Bogie had broken into a cheery rendition of "Good-bye-ee" as Ingrid Bergman boarded the plane to Lisbon. Kind of breaks the spell, I think.

Overall then, I would give this four (nearly five) stars for the first 3/4 of the book, a chilling, unputdownable slow-burner of a story. I'm afraid that I then have to knock off a star for the anti-climactic climax which, in itself, is acceptable King but is totally misplaced.

Sorry Steve - must do better.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Duma Key, 15 Feb 2013
This review is from: Duma Key (Hardcover)
Stephen King is an author I left alone for a good few years, but read his 'Under the Dome' just after Christmas, and picked this one off my shelf a couple of weeks ago. It is not his longest novel, but it is one of his best, I think. I like the way he builds character and, and his handling of the growing relationship between Edgar and Wireman was particularly well done. If I have a criticism, it is a tiny one, in that I think he could have developed Jack a tad more.

However, it is a slow paced novel, but that seemed to be entirely in keeping with the themes which he was exploring, the nature of recovery, and the way our minds think and how we interact with other people and also the situations we find ourselves in.

It could be argued that this is derivative, as one of the reviews I read did, but I don't think that is the point. It is not always what you write about, but how you do it, and I feel that King does it better than many other authors about at the moment.

Read, enjoy. I found it worth the time, as I have been glued to the bed until I finished it - always a good sign, ha ha.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved It!!, 25 Jan 2012
This review is from: Duma Key (Kindle Edition)
I am, like many others, a big Stephen King fan. I must have read almost everything he has written and though I found he had lost his way at one time, with this book I feel he was back on track and at his best. Certainly a long book but not difficult to complete and well worth the read. You will not be disappointed.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Readable but heavy going in places and highly derivative, 24 Dec 2009
By 
Cartimand (Hampshire, UK.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Duma Key (Paperback)
**** spoilers ****

A new Stephen King novel is usually an event to savour. I guess that is why, with expectation so high, my disappointment with Duma Key was so great.

Firstly, it's highly unoriginal. The well-worn motif of an artist affecting reality with his paintings is as old as the hills (Tom Baker as the voodoo-cursed painter in Vault of Horror springs immediately to mind). Next, the cheesy old creepy dolls/spooky ventriloquist scenario has also been done to death in everything from the classic Brit horror Dead of Night to Magic and Dead Silence. The concept of a possessed or cursed statuette has been lifted from one of the Amityvilles. The sand-demon apparition owes a huge amount to Clive Barker and the whole climactic denouement in the subterranean cistern is surely a huge hat-tip to the Japanese horror Ring 2.

At almost 700 pages, Duma Key is also a very hefty tome and I really struggled through much of the tedious scene-setting and characterisation.

On the plus side, one of the characters - Wireman, does stand out as charismatic and intriguing. His back story was genuinely powerful and moving. The reasonably gruesome grand guignole climax also just about saves Duma Key from being a lone-star novel. Then though, in the final pages, it all peters out into anticlimactic nothingness, with the added irritation of the unnecessary demise of the strongest character.

Maybe I'm being a little harsh. Had some young unknown writer penned this novel, I would probably have praised it more. For King though, this falls far short of some of his classics and I was left with the impression that he rattled this potboiler off after having watched his collection of classic British horror DVDs for inspiration.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing special, but still good Stephen King., 19 July 2014
By 
James Robinson (Reading, United Kingdom.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Duma Key (Kindle Edition)
I've read a lot of Stephen King; I was a real fan before the last three Dark Tower books, and I've recently returned to him after a decent bout of annoyance. 'Under the Dome' didn't really do it for me (like DT, I felt Stephen got slightly bored with it), and I felt kind of done with attempting new novels.

So, 'Duma Key'?

Well, there are Great Stephen Kings, and there are Great Good Stephen Kings. In the former category I would include 'IT', 'The Stand', and the first four Dark Tower novels, and probably 'Hearts in Atlantis'. In the latter, I would include novels like 'Insomnia' or ''Salems Lot', novels lacking any huge narrative ambition which nevertheless did what they aimed to do extremely well, novels with unique plots and extremely well imagined characters. I would put 'Duma Key' slightly below those Great Good novels: it's a good read, well worth your time, and well worthy of the King name, but it isn't quite as good as some of his earlier efforts.

If you've read a lot of Stephen King, you're going to find yourself on familiar ground (well, not Maine, but still...). Plotwise, Duma Key is particularly reminiscent of 'Salems Lot, but there are a lot of King touches which you will recognise, and even, I think, a little nod to Shawshank towards the end. However, the depth of character is not quite there, and probably very little will blow you away. Think about Father Callahan's confrontation in 'Salems Lot, or about the conversation in the sky in Insomnia, those were moments which kind of transcended what you expected from a novel, even a King novel. Everything in Duma Key seems a little done, and the characters, while perfectly great when you're reading, don't really spring off the page like others used to. I liked the character of Wireman, but I didn't get the same feeling of depth that I found in a character like, say, Ted Brautigan.

Of course, this all sounds very negative, but I'd still recommend the novel. The plot is fantastically structured over a reasonably long book (the biggest failing of 'Under the Dome'), and it does keep you guessing. Other reviewers weren't too keen on the ending, but I enjoyed it, the tension was well maintained and it had a certain unusual creepiness. Most of all it has that excellent King edge of maintaining a large number of characters, time-lines, and plot points without any of them becoming tedious. This is part of King's immense technical skill-set, and is probably why his worlds, as almost comically grotesque as they can become, always feel so real, and his characters so human. I can't think of any other novelists, including those King might label 'the book-snob authors', who possess that kind of narrative control. One of King's other phenomenal strengths is his ability to depict male relationships (this is why the focus on Susannah in DK become so troubling), and Duma Key also plays excellently on this gift.

Overall, this is a good Stephen King novel, even if nothing jumps out to make it particularly special. I was a constant reader who felt somewhat betrayed by the last three DT novels, works which appeared to have been rushed out just to get the thing over with, while simultaneously attempting to play out some incredibly complex themes. I was similarly disappointed by 'Under the Dome', which I may write a separate review for. Coming to 'Duma Key', I wondered whether this would be my last shot at a Stephen King. It won't be. Don't read 'Duma Key' expecting to be blown away in the same way that 'The Stand' might have blown you away, but read it. Definitely read it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good read although not very scary..., 29 Dec 2008
By 
This review is from: Duma Key (Mass Market Paperback)
This is the story of a man - Edgar - healing physically and mentally after a devastating industrial accident as a consequence of which, among other things, he is left with a stump where once was his right arm. The post-incident psychology is masterfully described, including the changes occurred in the protagonist's relationship with his wife. When Edgar decides to relocate to Florida, to try to give his life a new start, things seem to be getting better...at least in the beginning...
Characters are depicted in-depth. Edgar's best friend, Wireman, is an extremely likable chap, with a tragic past to overcome. Edgar and Wireman will be healing together, developing a friendship which might have lasted...
Edgar's stump itches and almost forces him to draw, and paint, turning him in one of the most acclaimed artists in Florida. The stump's itch is a beautiful symbolism of an artist's need to exteriorize his artistic impetus.
In the last 200 pages the book becomes a horror story. And that would be alright had it not been for the fact that it is not very scary...It is somehow upsetting that the Author, after touching so many dark corners of the human soul (or psychology if you are not a believer), eventually resorts to a "classic" monster thing to try to scare the reader...
Three and a half stars.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scary Supernatural Events in a Down-to-Earth Setting, 4 Jun 2011
By 
John M. Ford "johnDC" (near DC, MD USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Duma Key (Mass Market Paperback)
Edgar Freemantle, a Minnesota construction manager, is recovering from a crane accident that cost him his right arm. Also recovering from the disintegration of his marriage, Edgar rents a house on Florida's Duma Key. He divides his time between physical therapy and a renewed interest in sketching and painting. Edgar's art takes on an eerie quality as he creates haunting scenes he does not understand. And as he begins to paint with his missing right hand.

Edgar progresses along two paths. As planned, he gets on with his recovery. Edgar becomes physically stronger, proving his growing stamina with lengthening walks on the beach each day. He comes to terms with his estranged wife, two adult daughters, and former life in Minnesota. And Edgar makes friends, both on his little island and off. These are solid friendships with interesting people. Some, like Jerome Wireman from down the beach, have their own stories to tell. Others, like his handyman Jack Cantori, reveal little of themselves, but bring stability to Edgar's new life on the Key.

Like others who find themselves in a Stephen King story, Edgar also goes down a darker path. He draws on his terrifying supernatural experiences, his friends' knowledge of the Key's troubled history, and his emerging understanding of his own otherworldly artistic talent. Edgar slowly figures out the evil power confronting him and the rules of the supernatural world Stephen King has drawn around him. Edgar's progress along both paths is braided into a story that binds our attention. Some find the pace slow between the book's scarier events, but this time is well used to show the steady progress of Edgar's physical recovery and deepening friendships.

It surprises no one when this author tells a superior horror tale. But I am repeatedly impressed at how sensitively he captures real-life experiences. The love-hate buffetings and children-in-the-middle conflicts of Edgar's split family ring true and provoke pangs of sympathy. Edgar's stages-of-grief coping process with his lost arm also feels right. The book's treatments of death--death of ordinary individuals far from the book's eerie events--toll true as well. People die abruptly, for no good reason, and leave raveled threads of incompleteness behind them. This is its own kind of horror, which Steven King also shows us in Bag of Bones and Lisey's Story.

Save this book for when you can enjoy long stretches of quiet reading, when you can time your breaks to the chapters, and when you want to be alone. For a real treat, take it to the beach for a few days. And read it at night.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His best book for ages!, 7 Mar 2008
By 
Dr Evil (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Duma Key (Hardcover)
Edgar Freemantle suffers extreme injuries including losing his right arm and severe head trauma, after his car collides with a crane. Because of this Edgar has violent outbursts resulting in his wife wanting a divorce. His doctor then recommends he moves to somewhere more remote where he can relax and begin to recover. This place is called Duma Key, an isolated key off the coast of Florida. Here Edgar finds his hidden talent - sketching followed by painting. He begins to paint magnificent landscapes of the view from his window at his home, The Big Pink, with some very supernatural outcomes. Also on Duma Key Edgar meets his new best friend Wireman, who seems to have supernatural visions too, as well as the owner of the key, Elizabeth Eastlake, also an artist with a mysterious past regarding the death of her twin sisters and the disappearance of her other sisters in the 1920's. Only Edgar is about to find out the truth through his own art.

Other than Blaze (which was written in the 70's) I haven't read any of the newer Stephen King books since Dreamcatcher but I have read pretty much everything he had written before then (not the Dark Towers series) and I can say that this is one of the best of his books I have ever read. Yes, it is big (nearly 600 pages in the hardback format) and did take me a while to finish but it was so worth it as this is one book (amongst a lot) that really proves that King is the master of story-telling.

Rather than going for full-on horror or supernatural fiction that King usually goes for, Duma Key concentrates more on the characters, who's feelings and emotions have been so well written that I felt that these were really people I knew and cared about by the time I got to the end of the book. At first when Edgar had first had his accident and became a frustrated, aggressive guy, I really didn't like him much (which I think is what King intended the reader to feel), but as the book when on I felt his pain and began to sympathise with him The relationships between the characters were also very believeable with Edgar and Wireman's feeling almost childlike and pure, in the usual King fashion.

The book isn't perfect, as at times it can feel like it is dragging a little (especially near the beginning) and Edgar's daughter Ilse comes across as a 5 year old most of the time although she is supposed to be 19, the ending is also a bit of a letdown, again dragged out a bit too long and has a bit of an anti-climax, but overall it is very well written and very much an unputdownable book that is one of the best I've read in a long time. Highly recommended.
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Duma Key
Duma Key by Stephen King (Hardcover - 24 Jan 2008)
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