There are some passages in Stephen King’s 2008 novel Duma Key that sent chills up my spine, especially when the final confrontation is nigh and the protagonists face the evil entity on the little island off the coast of southern Florida.
Edgar Freemantle, a successful construction company owner, survives a horrific accident on a job site that results in serious head injuries and the loss of his right arm.
During his recuperation and to help restore his damaged psyche, Edgar moves to a beach house on Duma Key, where he takes up his old hobby of sketching. Simple enough, right?
No. Not simple. Because there is something else going on there. There are spirits and ghosts determined to relive the past, deliver messages, warn of impending danger and horror, and in general wreak vengeance and death upon its residents.
Edgar hires Jack Cantori, a college student, to help him do stuff – buy groceries, do odd jobs, this and that. He also starts taking longer and longer walks along the beach, where he meets an old woman, Elizabeth Eastlake, and her caregiver, Jerome Wireman.
Edgar and Wireman strike up a friendship and Elizabeth takes up a liking to him.
During fitful bouts of painting, where the brush and charcoal and paints seem to create images of their own accord, Edgar discovers that his paintings have deeper meaning and are connected to tragic events of the past – events that involve Elizabeth and her family. Worse yet, the gruesome sketches and paintings begin to incorporate HIS family and friends.
Every drawing, every painting has meaning that Edgar needs to interpret, to save the lives of Jack, Wireman, his ex Pam, his daughters (especially the younger Ilse), and his associates.
His artwork creates a stir in the art community, which begins to regard him as a genius. Unfortunately, a successful show results in all of his paintings being sold, and the evil entity known as “Perse” (which apparently comes from the Greek goddess Persephone, queen of the underworld) begins to exact its toll horribly on the buyers.
Edgar, Wireman and Jack confront Perse in the old Eastlake house, attacking it with silver bracelets and rods, trapping it in a silver container, to be disposed of eventually in an ocean chasm far from Duma Key.
Duma Key lives up to Stephen King’s reputation as the top psychological horror author of the century.
Scribner ($25.95 list)