Joyride by Jack Ketchum

Joyride seemed to be on a different level than our previous novels and films. When I say “next level” I don’t mean to insinuate that was a more challenging read, but that the psychological thriller aspect was more intricate than we’d been used to.

Our first novel Psycho, which was so aptly titled, really left little to the imagination. It was obvious Norman Bates was our “psycho”, and we knew he did it to Mary Crane, in the shower, with the butcher knife. It wasn’t so much a question of who or, once we got the backstory, even why, but when. When would Sam and Lila catch up with Bates? Would they figure it out? Would they live to see him arrested? The dual personality aspect was that extra twist, but it had everything readers expected from the thriller.

Joyride, while similar in tone and style, had a different story to tell. Again, it wasn’t a story of who or why, but when and how? When would we catch up with Lock, and Edwards, and Gardner? When would Lock finally stop? How would Gardner and Edwards–if ever–escape? And what if they did? Would they be escaping to imprisonment, metaphorically or literally? This was the first book we had where there was not one clear culprit.

This time the first murder we see is almost justified. It’s not right, but it is clear in the next breath that we weren’t looking at our psychos here. We’d already met him and his name was Wayne Lock. At that point, oddly enough, he hadn’t killed anybody. He’d wanted to, he’d been close, and he’d even helped in one instant, but it’s not until almost the halfway point where we seem him make his first kill.

To be honest, it was kind of a let down.

I’ve been used to our psychopaths having a purpose. John Doe, Buffalo Bill, Patrick Bateman…they may not all have had a purpose, but they were interesting–unsettling. There was just something about Lock choosing to gun down a woman on a busy highway when the sun hadn’t even completely set yet that felt anticlimactic. That’s it? That’s his first kill? No rhyme or reason, no game of cat and mouse. Just a drive-by shooting where no one even stops. I just can’t imagine driving on the PA turnpike and watching someone shoot another driver and just drive on by. Sure, we see later on that someone calls in, but I just think it was still unbelievable that Lock ran as long as he did.

Then there was the second murder of a college kid–practically on Dartmouth’s campus. Again, lock just guns him down. How is it possible that in a college city nobody’s around to see that shooting? I mean, anything’s possible, but I had a hard time not calling bluff.

I finally began to get the unsettling feeling that is beginning to get to familiar when we saw the Lock didn’t have just a little notebook, but a vision board of people he’d like to murder. From that point on I could definitely see the turning point in Lock’s character. The odd pleasantness–almost admiration–he’d shown in front of Lee and Carole was gone, and he’d lost it.

The skewed story though made for an interesting end, especially when there was still the fact of Howard Gardner’s death to atone for. I didn’t feel any sympathy for Howard in the slightest, but was surprised when Carole just kept quiet. Of course she’d been through so much, but to just let Wayne take the hit for killing her ex-husband gave me pause. Maybe if Lee and Carole hadn’t lured Howard out in the woods with the intention of killing him, I could have swallowed it. If they’d only wanted to scare him a bit but not kill him–and then Carole still only killed him to save Lee–I could’ve bypassed the sketchiness. While the backstory was neatly woven–and, again, I didn’t feel sorry for Howard, but I thought that the connection it ended up making with Wayne–the “psycho” of the story–was just a bit too far-fetched and happenstance.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. The Petulant Muse says:

    I agree with you that Wayne was a let down. I don’t know if your edition of the book had the additional piece by Ketchum about where he gets his ideas. The only parts of the book that were truly original were the parts you and I didn’t like or buy into. It’s like he put no effort into them, only into tweaking the true stories that he wove into this piece. I didn’t care for it. At least it was an easy read.

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  2. Kristin says:

    I liked the book when I read it, but the more I think about it some things don’t line up. Wayne’s first few kills are totally random. He’s a spree killer without a message. I don’t have a problem with that. He just wanted to kill people and understand what that felt like. But then we go back to his vision board and his kill list, and he heads back to town to start knocking off the people on his list. Now he has a message. “The people who pissed me off are about to get shot.” It’s inconsistent. I think Ketchum should have fleshed Wayne out and made him one or the other. A spree killer killing for fun, or a spree killer killing those who wronged him.

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  3. Chad Pritt says:

    I’m happy to see that I’m not the only one that kinda liked this book for what it was. I don’t think it was ever meant to be on par with any of our other psychos, but to see a different type. All of the others were so calculating, and already “mature,” whereas with this one we see that first kill. I think it’s probably pretty accurate when it comes to first time killers. Sloppy and without calculation the first time, but getting more sophisticated as time went on.

    I saw the ending coming from a mile away, and I knew that Lock would take the fall, I just didn’t know how it was going to all play out. That was the fun part, just going along for the ride…

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