Review: Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill is a really good read. This classic ghost story is gothic, both Southern and European, and quite modern. Judas Coyne is a retired rock star, who has fallen into the habit of collecting the macabre, which for an ex-metal star seems just “…like wearing leather pants, just part of the costume.” He owns a genuine snuff tape, a collection of Medieval with-hunters’ guides and a cannibal’s cookbook, and so when he’s contacted across the internet about a ghost for sale (“…not eBay but one of the wannabes…”) it seems quite natural for it to fall into his collection.

The suit arrives in a heart-shaped box, and the haunting begins…

“The mad sometimes drilled holes in their own heads to let the demons out. To relieve the pressure of thoughts they could no longer bear. Jude understood the impulse. Each beat of his heart was a fresh and staggering blow felt in the nerves behind his eyes and in his temples. Punishing evidence of life.”

I really enjoyed Heart-Shaped Box, which is odd for me as I’m not a huge fan of horror, but this story keeps the gore in check and is packed with great writing (“…a rotund family in promotional T-Shirts, their ample bellies doing double duty as billboards.”), a fantastic twist or two and some damn compelling characters. I love the way violence is introduced into the plot, as well as how the ghost speaks, cryptic and threatening through the radio (“…the dead drag the living down…”) It was great (especially as it was his debut novel), and on the strength of this novel I’m going to buy some more of Joe Hill’s books.

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