Joe Hill's first novel is a horrific
little tale centered on Jude, a 54-year-old aging
heavy-metal star living comfortably on the royalties
of his albums. Jude buys a haunted suit on the
internet believing it will be a suitable addition to
his ghoulish collection, but he gets more than he
expected when the suit turns out to be genuinely
haunted by a ghost who has no intention of being
part of a collection, especially when he has a
personal vendetta to fulfill.
The irony is that Jude has spent his life exploiting the macabre with his stage persona, but now he is the target, and his fantasy seems to have taken a very realistic turn. It transpires that the ghostly bag of bones is a Vietnam vet turned mesmerist (a form of hypnotism) who also happens to be the deeply evil stepfather of one of Jude's old girlfriends who committed suicide after they split up.
Jude and his current girlfriend take to the road to escape the ghost, who follows in a cinematic, ghostly old Chevy pickup, releasing the full gamut of supernatural offerings on his intended victims as he chases them across the country.
Heart-Shaped Box has garnered high praise from many. Kirkus Reviews describes it as "hair-raising fun" and Publishers Weekly concludes that Hill's "subtle and skillful treatment of horrors that could easily have exploded over the top and out of control helps make this a truly memorable debut."
In short, Hill knows his audience. If horror is your genre you're likely to find yourself satisfied with his first novel, and with book rights already sold in at least 17 countries and a movie already being planned, it's likely we'll be hearing more from him before too long.
This review was originally published in February 2007, and has been updated for the April 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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