Devin just went through a bad breakup, and to get away, he takes a summer job at a carnival named Joyland. It is located along the coastline of North Carolina and is run by a strange old man who embodies much of an old-style carnie era.
Devin shares a room with a veteran worker, in his late 50’s, that knows some of the secrets of the area, but even so he can’t explain why so many young women have turned up missing around Joyland. One murder still lingers as the ghost of Linda Gray, who was thrown from a car on the tracks that ran through the tunnel of love.
Yes, the park is haunted, and Linda even shows up in photographs. Devin finds the ghost mystery to be a good distraction from the girl he left behind, and really tries to get to the bottom of what happened with Linda Gray’s murder.
He learns the trade mojo from some carnie masters and eventually he finds a new relationship with a worldly older woman. He excels as he cheers up the kids posing as a huge fury dog.
The loss of the old-time carnie style is one focus that King weaves into this novel. The manipulation of wiling customers seems to be sincere and honest because of the old established rules of the game. The comparison to the Disney approach is obvious. King may have used the changes in this industry to be symbolic of the changes form old style pulp fiction approaches to writing?
Eventually the villain is unmasked, and o yes there are evil clowns.