You know, I was skeptical of Heart-Shaped Box at first. I give Joe Hill props for the nom de plume (he is the son of horror megastar Stephen King and Tabitha King, no writing slouch in her own right), but I still wondered if perhaps the praise he has received for his first book had more to do with his lineage than the writing itself. When I started the book, it seemed as though my first impressions might be correct, but 30 or so pages in the novel kicks into high gear and never slows down. From that point on, it’s page turner all the way.
From the book jacket:
Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals . . . a used hangman’s noose . . . a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest discovery, an item for sale on the Internet, a thing so terribly strange, Jude can’t help but reach for his wallet.
I will “sell” my stepfather’s ghost to the highest bidder. . . .
For a thousand dollars, Jude will become the proud owner of a dead man’s suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. He isn’t afraid. He has spent a lifetime coping with ghosts—of an abusive father, of the lovers he callously abandoned, of the bandmates he betrayed. What’s one more?
But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no imaginary or metaphorical ghost, no benign conversation piece. It’s the real thing.
And suddenly the suit’s previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door . . . seated in Jude’s restored vintage Mustang . . . standing outside his window . . . staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting—with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one bony hand. . . .
Good writing must run in the genes is all I’ve got to say. Ghost stories are hard to pull off. They’ve been done a thousand times before. Ghosts aren’t all that scary compared to some other subjects of discussion, and it’s hard to kill them. But Heart-Shaped Box accomplishes the feat of dealing with every one of those problems. If you like ghost stories, then this is the book for you. And maybe you’ll learn a lesson, too. When somebody offers to sell you a ghost, just click no thanks.
Heads Up: Heart-Shaped Box has all the violence and sexually situations one might expect from such a novel, so if you aren’t into that kind of thing, you might want to look elsewhere.