Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Jack Ketchum
Published by Leisure Books
Jack Ketchum has a rabid fanbase and a pretty damned good pedigree. After all, we are talking about the guy Stephen King called the “scariest man in America.” With his new book, Joyride, the story isn’t so much “scary” as it is “batshit crazy,” and Ketchum makes it work. Horrifying? Certainly.
Joyride is the story of Carole and Lee, who decide to murder Carole’s abusive husband, Howard. After careful planning and a trip out to an isolated hiking area, they do the deed, dump the body, and walk away, believing they got away with the perfect crime. Of course nothing is ever that simple. Just above them on a ridge, town loony Wayne, who’s just tried to strangle his girlfriend while having sex, watches the murder go down and becomes fascinated with the couple and wants to taste the kind of freedom they felt in killing another man. What happens next is a mixture of kidnapping, rape, and murder as they pass from one victim to another.
What makes Joyride such a compelling read is the depth and clarity of Ketchum’s characters. In Lee the reader sees the protective lover who will do anything to keep his girlfriend safe. Carole presents a woman pushed beyond the limits of endurance by her husband and driven to desperate acts. But the real star is Wayne, the psycho. With every line Ketchum builds Wayne into a first-class murderous nutjob that might just live right next door. There is a deranged sense of logic that follows him, an emotional detachment that will haunt the reader long after the last page is turned. Ketchum’s reputation of visceral horror sits firmly intact with this story as he leads the reader on a hair-raising journey that brings with it that sense of uncomfortable revulsion for which Ketchum is known.
The book also contains the short story “Weed Species” to add page count. The story opens up with a girl drugging her thirteen year-old sister so her fiancé can rape her. The whole story descends into depravity from there and ends with an abrupt halt that gives no closure. Make no mistake; this short story, though well-written, is disgusting and depraved. If you’re looking for a story where an unrepentant couple rapes every young thing in sight, then kills the ones who sees them, this is the one. For many, however, the story’s depravity outweighs its entertainment value.
4 out of 5
2 out of 5
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