Six months after a crane crushes his pickup truck and his body self-made millionaire Edgar Freemantle launches into a new life. . He leaves Minnesota for Duma Key, a stunningly beautiful, eerily remote stretch of the Florida coast where he has rented a house. All of the land on Duma Key, and the few houses, are owned by Elizabeth Eastlake, an octogenarian whose tragic and mysterious past unfolds perilously. When Edgar begins to paint, his formidable talent seems to come from someplace outside him, and the paintings, many of them, have a power that cannot be controlled.
Because I felt like reading something older, I picked Duma Key up again because it’s become one of my favorite Stephen King books. I first read it a few years back when illness kept me from working for a period, and I wanted another dose of the creepiness that entranced me the first time I read it.
I’ve been a fan of Stephen King since I was in middle school and sneaking around with The Dark Half and Misery, and I’ve been disappointed in some of his more recent work. An old friend recommended Duma Key to me and I loved it.
Like a lot of Stephen King books it takes a while to get to the good stuff. Most of the first part of the book is dedicated to Edgar Freemantle’s unfortunate construction site accident that takes his arm, his marriage, and a large chunk of his ability to remember words and phrases. He goes through rehab, moves out to their lake house, visits his daughters. Pretty mundane stuff, right up until his daughter comes to visit him on Duma Key.
The island itself is good and creepy right from the start. The shells under the house “talk” to Edgar and half of the island is covered in jungle-like flora that has no business being there. He meets Wireman and Elizabeth soon after, and slowly his paintings become more surreal and he feels them take on a life of their own.
I love Edgar’s progression from suicidal to comfortable to genius artist. I feel it’s very genuine, and when the old Stephen King supernatural element comes into play it happens gradually, ramping up until you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what’s going to happen next.
Personally, I consider the first half of the book to be up until Edgar’s art show. You suspect a bit of the supernatural presence that has been hinted at, but it’s not until the show that the cover is thrown back by a terrified Elizabeth. After that, things pretty much get full-blown frightening.
Next week: Part Two