Book Review # 98 - Duma Key by Stephen King

Duma Key


Stephen King

Back Cover: "After a terrible construction site accident severed his right arm, scrambled his mind, and imploded his marriage, the wealthy Minnesota builder faces the ordeal of rehabilitation alone and enraged. Renting a house on a stunningly beautiful and eerily undeveloped splinter off the Florida coast, Edgar slowly emerges from his prison of pain to bond with Elizabeth Eastlake, a sick old woman whose roots are tangled deep in Duma Key. And as he heals, he paints---feverishly, compulsively, his exploding talent both a wonder and a weapon. For Edgar's creations are not just paintings, but portals for the ghosts of Elizabeth's past...and their power cannot be controlled."

I generally steer away from horror novels, same as I do horror movies. Blood and guts slasher movies have never really been my cup of tea. Which is the reason I have steered away from Stephen King all these years. Too much for my very vivid imagination. A couple years back I read Stephen King's "On Writing" and was impressed with him. I decided to give one of his fiction books a try. I picked one up at the used book store and five minutes in changed my mind - too icky. Can't remember the name unfortunately because I already took it back for credit. However, when Duma Key came out, I decided to give him another try. I read the back cover, picked a few random pages out in the book, liked what read and decided to get it. Duma Key wasn't so much a horror story as it was a supernatural, psychological thriller. Totally captured my attention and kept me reading long into the night.

Due to head injuries sustained when a crane backed over Edgar's truck, his temper is out of control. His wife wants a divorce and none of his friends want to be around him - he's too unpredictable and mean. His psychologist suggests he find a quiet place and take up a hobby, find something that he has always wanted to do and do it. Edgar loved to draw when he was young but had given it up. He moves to Duma Key, Florida and takes up painting. Soon his paintings take an eerie turn and he discovers what he paints becomes reality. He is also being visited by ghosts of Elizabeth's past and he must try to figure out what her cryptic statements mean, ones she can't explain as she slips farther and farther from reality. I don't want to give away any spoilers, so will leave you with an excerpt from the first page.

"How to Draw a Picture (1)

Start with a blank surface. It doesn't have to be paper or canvas, but I feel it should be white. We call it white because we need a word, but its true name is nothing. Black is the absence of light, but white is the absence of memory, the color of can't remember.

How to we remember to remember? That's a question I've asked myself often since my time in Duma Key, often in the small hours of the morning, looking up into the absence of light, remembering absent friends. Sometimes in those little hours I think about the horizon. You have to establish the horizon. You have to mark the white. A simple enough act, you might say, but any act that re-makes the world is heroic. Or so I've come to believe.

Imagine a little girl, hardly more than a baby. She fell from a carriage almost ninety years ago, struck her head on a stone and forgot everything. Not just her name; everything! And then she recalled just enough to pick up a pencil and make that first hesitant mark across the white. A horizon line, sure. But also a slot for blackness to pour through.

Still, imagine that small hand lifting the pencil...hesitating...and then marking the white. Imagine the courage of that first effort to re-establish the world by picturing it. I will always love that little girl, in spite of all she has cost me. I must. I have no choice.

Pictures are magic, as you know."

Pages: 800
Publisher: Pocket Books
Released: October 21, 2008
Genre: Horror - suspense

Other thoughts about the book:

David Craddock of Fantasy book Critic
"It is the readers' near-invasive ability to view Edgar's triumphs and defeats that allows him to become such a strong, relatable character. Just as with his other works, King sets a realistic pace that details both evolutions and setbacks. The humanness of Edgar Freemantle's struggle to adjust to a life without his family, without his old job and his old friend, without an appendage, is what makes his journey interesting, enjoyable, and intense."

Lourdes of Lost in Books:
"This book unravels slowly, and wonderfully. Much of the first part is gothic, but then King starts ratcheting up the suspense – and the terror. This is undeniably a King book, but a different kind of King. It also may be one of his finest works. I’m glad I didn’t miss out on it."

Benjamin Percy of Esquire:
"If Lisey’s Story and Duma Key are any indication, King is writing at a level equivalent to, if not better than, his last run of excellent work published in the nineties. And I’m course eager to see what will come howling around the corner next. For now, Duma Key will continue to make my eyes go wide, the steadily rising terror of its chapters like the tide to a man buried neck deep in sand."


  1. One of my friends strongly recommended this book, but like you I've never been into Stephen King, so I resisted. I might have to rethink my position on him, though, and give this book a try. :)

  2. Hi, I saw your book at Semicolon's Saturday review and had to see what you thought. I have never read Stephen King (and didn't think I ever would) but I picked up Duma Key and was surprised at his writing. Next I read his nonfiction book On Writing which I gave high marks. I definitely recommend On Writing now that you have taken the plunge!
    KD in SC


Unfortunately due to being spammed, all comments will be moderated and will appear after approval. At least I'm not using the dreaded captcha. Thank you for dropping by!