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Duma Key

A book by Stephen King

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Very creepy and atmospheric

  • Mar 6, 2008
Any New England snowbird can empathize with Edgar Freemantle's instant fascination with the west coast Florida sunset.

"As that light skied upward, orange faded to a breathless Maxfield Parrish blue-green that I had never seen before with my own eyes...and yet I had a sense of déjà vu, as if maybe I had seen it, in my dreams."

Whether it's the novelty of a sunset over water or being closer to the equator or further west in the time zone, there's no denying the light really is different in Florida and King perfectly captures the newcomer's wonder. It doesn't seem the least strange or foreboding that Edgar runs for his colored pencils and works feverishly to capture the color.

Edgar has come to Duma Key from Michigan to revitalize himself after a horrific accident in which he lost an arm, badly damaged a leg and suffered a head trauma which months later still causes aphasia, headaches and bouts of depression and anger. He had nearly died and often wishes he had. His marriage is over and he feels suicidal and out of control. A self-made man who is used to propelling the world in the direction he wants it to go, Edgar hates his new helplessness.

But Duma Key almost instantly works its magic. Every day Edgar walks the beach, growing stronger, and every evening he attempts to capture the sunset on paper, though it's a while before he succeeds as well as he did on his first night.

Although he hasn't done more than doodle in 20 years - too busy building the contracting business which has made him a wealthy man - Edgar's artistic ability grows in leaps and bounds, keeping pace with his insatiable drive.

But this is Stephen King and while the reader enjoys, even participates in Edgar's renewal, we know there's a worm somewhere in paradise. The first inkling Edgar gets is after an email from his favorite daughter, Ilse. Seized by the drawing urge that grips his right arm (the missing one), Edgar draws the boyfriend he's never met and the heartache that awaits his daughter.

Other psychic pictures begin to come to him, scarier ones. The tension builds like a slow drumbeat in the distance, insistent but far away. Then Edgar learns that he's not the only one on the island with special gifts and the island itself may have secrets it doesn't intend to share. At least not until it's good and ready.

Bouts of drawing, and later painting, leave him ravenous, as if he's been emptied of what fuels him. His productivity rockets in tandem with the talent that bowls over everyone who sees his work; from the local caretaker to the respected art critic and knowledgeable gallery owner.

Edgar is a bit bemused by the wow factor but he takes his new talent in stride. He is a powerful, determined character with a big, healthy ego. Edgar comes across as just the sort of driven, self-made man he's supposed to be, dropped in his tracks, but not out, more active than introspective, making a start on a whole new life.

The Duma setting, crucial to the plot's success, essential to the scare factor, is so vivid you can smell the brine and see those mesmerizing sunsets. It's beautiful, exotic, wild and sinister. "Overhead a heron glided across the darkening sky, a silent long-neck projectile."

It's a place with dark secrets and darker plans and Edgar may not be as in control of his gift as he thinks he is. King has another big winner.

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More Duma Key: A Novel reviews
Quick Tip by . January 18, 2011
One of my favorite Stephen King books. I read it while on a beach vacation and the setting in the book made it perfect and a little creepier. If done properly it would make a superb movie. Recommend to anyone who likes creepy and great writing.
review by . June 24, 2010
Ahh... what can I say about Duma Key, other than it being an extraordinary experience, a literary breath of fresh air, a masterpiece of color and texture without any actual paint being used. I guess there are some people out there think it's boring or long but I instantaneously felt a bond with the book and I can say that I absolutely loved it! The writing itself was so colorful and interesting that I enjoyed each and every page, there was in no rush to get to the ending by any means, but I did …
review by . March 10, 2010
Sometimes I read a long book and wish it were shorter. But reading Stephen King's Duma Key was not one of those times. The story is beautifully plotted and paced, from the slightly off-kilter wonder of the first page--"Pictures are magic, as you know"--to the real-world tragedy of a brain-injured one-armed man, to the fearful, awful revelations around page 600.      The heroes in this novel are very real, very wounded people, old enough to know a bit about life, …
review by . May 23, 2009
Pros: fleshed out characters, interesting subject     Cons: none for me     The Bottom Line:   What time zone am on? What country am I in?  It doesn't matter, it's five o'clock somewhere.  ~Jackson/Buffet     First I gotta say I’m beginning to hate Stephen King. My latest read, Duma Key, his 54th novel, comes in at a hefty 609 pages in hardback and I’ve got to tell Stephen these books are getting …
review by . June 07, 2008
I'm a pretty huge Stephen King fan, dating back to about 1979, when I first read THE SHINING. I've stuck with him through some poor times (THE DARK HALF & NEEDFUL THINGS) and certainly enjoyed the high points. DUMA KEY falls somewhere in the middle of the batch. It has some wonderful writing...aside from the story...King's ability to describe a situation (like an artist's first time gallery -opening) or a feeling (the frustration of learning to live with only one arm) is near its height. The settings …
review by . May 14, 2008
The prolific purveyor of terror, Stephen King, semi-successfully turns his finely honed, `I-know-what-scares-you' gaze from the venue of his beloved Maine to the seemingly serene retiree-haven of the Florida Keys in his umpteenth novel entitled, "Duma Key". This tale of horror explores the idea of an imaginative power so forceful that when it flexes its muscle a combination of all-hell-breaking-loose steam and creative juices gone wild collide with the impact of the construction crane that nearly …
review by . February 21, 2008
When my best friend asked me what makes 'Duma Key' a Stephen King book, I had to think about it. I knew just what she meant: what makes it creepy, scary, where's that touch of the supernatural? I realized that what I had been describing to her didn't sound much like a King novel, and there is reason for that.    This isn't an easy novel to read. Edgar Freemantle, our intrepid protagonist, suffers a pretty horrific accident in the early pages, loses his right arm along with mental …
About the reviewer
Lynn Harnett ()
Ranked #182
I love to read, always have, and have been writing reviews for more years than I care to say. Early on, i realized there are more books than there is time to read, so I read only books I like and mostly … more
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About this book


Renting a house on an eerily undeveloped stretch of the Florida coast after suffering a crippling accident and ending his marriage, construction millionaire Edgar Freemantle obsessively creates works of art that lead him to discover unsettling elements from his landlady's enigmatic family history. Reprint.
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ISBN-10: 1416552510
ISBN-13: 978-1416552512
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner
Date Published: April 30, 2009
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"King's Third Act begins"
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