Heart-Shaped Box (2007) – Joe Hill

After enjoying Hill’s short story collection a couple of weeks ago, as well as his fantastic work on Locke & Key, I decided to give a full novel a try, and the result ends up being a very satisfying ghost story, as we dive into a world of sex, violence and rock’n’roll.

Judas Coyne (not his real name) is in his fifties and he is a heavy metal god, or he was, now he’s semi-retired, and is an avid collector of the strange and the weird. When he comes across an offer to buy a real ghost, or at least the suit of a dead man with the promise that the ghost will come with it, he snaps it up.

And finds himself in a fairly spooky ride along the night road of the dead, as the ghost proves to be real, and seems to have it in for Judas.

After watching countless horror films, too many of which rely on jump scares and musical stings, it’s rather pleasant, and truly enjoyable to dig into a ghost story that all takes place in the theatre of the reader’s mind. Hill’s storytelling plays things out matter-of-factly, one minute Judas may be completely alone, sitting in his car, only to turn and see this terrifying old, dead man sitting next to him, his voice spilling from the speaker system promising death.

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It ends up being a fast-moving tale, and one that surprised me, as I couldn’t quite figure out how Hill would sustain what starts out as a simple ghost story for four hundred pages. And yet he does, and it is a completely engaging ride, filled with twists, turns, reveals, and legitimately unnerving scares.

Hill’s prose doesn’t hold anything back, it’s a one two punch that tells you exactly what is going on, and you can either accept that Judas, and those he loves are caught up in these terrifying events, or you can find another book to read.

What I do like is that Hill takes the belief of the afterlife, and ghosts, and gives it his own spin, presenting the old man who is stalking Judas in a new, and spooky way. Ghosts always seem to have something wrong with their eyes, and this time around is no different, and probably the most terrifying one I’ve come across. And the best part is, you get an explanation as to the why.

Hill doles out the story at just the right pace, and with just the right level of scare to keep readers on edge. The reveals when they come are just as horrifying and believable as everything else Judas goes through, and Hill makes every moment of it an engrossing read.

I really enjoyed this one, and Mr. Hill, I’ll be back for more soon!

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