Book Review: Duma Key by Stephen King

Duma Key by Stephen King

If you’d ask me, I’d say Stephen King is way too scary for me. Misery? I shiver. Carrie? I shudder. But those are the movies. The books tend to be bearable or even very much enjoyable (like The Stand).

For a while when reading this book I was worried I’d get very spooked. But that never happened. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing in this case.

Duma Key: What it is about

Edgar Freemantle was in an accident that left him with only one arm and a hip that he needed to learn to walk with again. His wife couldn’t handle living with Edgar as a disabled man and divorced him.

With money no object (his previous job paid well, and he also had an inheritance), Edgar rents a house on the beach of the island of Duma Key. Here, he works on an almost-forgotten hobby of his: drawing and painting.

His only neighbours are an old lady and her caretaker. The lady, suffering from Alzheimer, sometimes warns Edgar against the island and repeats sentences that don’t make sense to him.

He finds that his painting is going well. Very well indeed. It’s almost like he is not doing it himself. And all his pictures have something to do with the sea and a ship.

After a while, Edgar discovers there is some pattern in his paintings and this is related to the old lady and her past.

Don’t be surprised if a sea ghost or two enter the stage.

Duma Key: What I thought

Hmm, this is not the first time I’ve written this recently: I loved the beginning but…

The setting up of the story was well done. I was happy to follow Edgar around, limping through his house and on the beach. He made some great paintings and people congratulated him with his progress. Great. Some unknown force helping him produce the pictures… I could handle it.

But a convoluted story about sea ghosts and an old ship? No, I didn’t enjoy that. I could not tell you the plot because I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand it because I didn’t try hard enough. It was too odd and uninteresting.

So, what started off great ended in a disappointment. Next!

Rating: 3/5 stars

I got this book: from my mother, who loved it

I read this in: Dutch (Duma), the original language is English

Number of pages: 624

First published: 2008

Genre: fantasy

Extra: Also check out my review of The Running Man by Stephen King.


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

26 Responses to Book Review: Duma Key by Stephen King

  1. Cindy says:

    Was there a dog? King’s stories always have a dog!

  2. Joanna says:

    I was surprised to see you read Stephen King, Judith, but then you read everything! 🙂 I loved Duma Key. I’ve just finished reading two of his short story collections and am on to an old one of his – ‘Rage’.

    • Leeswammes says:

      I do read anything, Joanna. I very much enjoyed The Stand by Stephen King, which I read as a read-a-long, otherwise I’d probably never picked it up. This one was recommended to me, but I wasn’t too impressed. Have fun with the short stories!

  3. I remember throwing The Shining across the room while reading it to get it out of my hands! But I agree, I found The Stand super compelling. I do like ghost stories, and I’m intrigued that Stephen King has done one recently, but your review doesn’t make me want to try this 😦

  4. I haven’t read (or watched) any Stephen King as I worry it will scare me. I think I might start with Under the Dome or maybe even a scary one now I have time to read during the day. Doesn’t sound like this one is a good place for me to begin though.

    • Leeswammes says:

      I find King’s movies very scary, Jackie. But some of his books are OK. This one not so, though. The Stand was a really nice dystopian story – but a very big book.

  5. I just finished this one recently and reviewed it. Audio and Kindle edition. I liked the audio better than the print version and over all rated it 4/5, but as you mentioned parts were weird. I enjoyed this first 2/3 more than the rest.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Same here, Diane, I liked the beginning a lot more than the end. I liked especially the art scene and the friendship with the minder. But the ghost story? No. Not for me.

  6. Louise says:

    I’ve only read one Stephen King so far – and that was The Stand, I enjoyed it a lot but can’t say that I’m tempted to rush into the next one too quickly. Although I do have The Colorado Kid waiting on my Kindle.

  7. suzigun says:

    This is sitting on our “To be read” shelf (alongside a few other fat books by Mr King) and you’ve not made me want to move it up the pile. When the books are so hefty, starting one is a real commitment.

    • Leeswammes says:

      I agree, Suzi. With this book, the beginning and middle were quite good, so I had no problem reading it, until I was quite far into the book when things started to deteriorate. Such a pity!

  8. Rikki says:

    Actually I think that most films don’t do the book justice at all (except for Misery). Usually they are not nearly as subtle. Your review (as mediocre as it made the book sound) has made me consider Stephen King again. I still have Joe Hill in my TBR pile (so I am not too far off)….

    • Leeswammes says:

      Stephen King has written so many books, Rikki, I’m sure you’ll find one that you like. I also read a book by Richard Bachman, which is also Stephen King – that was a great novel (dystopian).

      • Rikki says:

        I have read lots of his books when I was younger, so I know what I am in for. Actually the Bachman books I never really liked that much.

  9. As many of my students love Stephen King, I have had to read some of his novels and short stories when they write papers about him, but he will never be a real favourite of mine. Some of his stories are fairly interesting, but the quality varies so much.

  10. petekarnas says:

    This was one of King’s more atmospheric novels. The whole thing with the weird ghost/demon that lived in salt water was a bit out there even for King. But, the reason I enjoyed this book was the change in scenery – King’s books are, for the most part, set in small New England towns. There’s the big cities thrown in here and there but not often. This just had a different vibe, which I enjoyed. But, the plot was certainly lacking.

  11. Trisha says:

    That stinks! I hate it when the story loses it.

  12. Vishy says:

    I haven’t read Stephen King in years, but your review is making me want to try this one. I love books with islands, paintings, ships and sea ghosts 🙂 I watched a movie sometime back called ‘The Ghost and Mrs.Muir’ starring the beautiful Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison, which was about a house which the heroine buys near the sea which is haunted by the ghost of a sea captain. Your review made me remember that 🙂

  13. Deniz says:

    I am a big Stephen King fan and Duma Key was the best thing he wrote since Bag of Bones, that is ten years….The sea ghost giving the benefit of a talent in return for a life…It made the book so ominious so atmospheric that I thought I would be suffocated. I am sorry you just didn’t understand it perhaps second time you will get around it and see what the sea ghost is not actually a ghost but a “demon”…

    • Leeswammes says:

      Deniz, you’re right, I didn’t see the book as very ominous. I may have missed the point. I know other people who loved this book.

      Thanks for your comment.

  14. James Naylor says:

    why did you even bother? The two things that stand out to me are: 1. You read a translated version of this book. 2. You didn’t understand the plot. In your position, I would have given the author the benefit of doubt, and concluded the issue(s) may have been in translation. The right thing to do would be to reread this book in English, and give a fair account, or spare us this pathetic excuse for a review.

    • Leeswammes says:

      James, thanks for your comment. There is nothing wrong with translations, in my mind. I read a lot of translations, because my (Dutch) library doesn’t stock every book in English, and besides, it usually doesn’t take away from my reading pleasure.

      In this case too, I don’t think the translation was the problem. Dutch is my first language, so if anything it should be easier to read. The not understanding was about the plot itself. I found it strange and could not follow quite what the idea was here.

      James, this is my blog and I can write what I like on it. I don’t think any of the other commenters had any issues with my review anyway. I do enjoy books by Stephen King (e.g., The Stand and 11/22/63) so it’s really just this particular book that didn’t work for me.

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