Source: Bookstore Inventory
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Edition: Hardcover, 376 Pages
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository*
*I receive a small monetary kickback from Amazon purchases
Aging, self-absorbed rock star Judas Coyne has a thing for the macabre — his collection includes sketches from infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy, a trepanned skull from the 16th century, a used hangman’s noose, Aleister Crowley’s childhood chessboard, etc. — so when his assistant tells him about a ghost for sale on an online auction site, he immediately puts in a bid and purchases it.
The black, heart-shaped box that Coyne receives in the mail not only contains the suit of a dead man but also his vengeance-obsessed spirit. The ghost, it turns out, is the stepfather of a young groupie who committed suicide after the 54-year-old Coyne callously used her up and threw her away. Now, determined to kill Coyne and anyone who aids him, the merciless ghost of Craddock McDermott begins his assault on the rocker’s sanity.
I don’t read very many horror novels as they are not typically something I enjoy or seek out. But with the film Horns in theaters and my innate curiosity to know more I decided to try out the Joe Hill book that I had sitting in my Halloween display at the store. While Heart-Shaped Box was not the most original or unique horror book it was highly enjoyable and definitely had the full on creep factor going for it.
Heart-Shaped Box focuses on Judas Coyne, an aging rock star with a macbe hobby. He likes to collect things that a normal person would avoid, things like a hangman’s noose and a snuff film, so when his agent tells him about a ghost for sale he doesn’t hesitate to buy it outright. As soon as he gets the heart-shaped box with a deadman’s old suit things start to get weird. It starts out small and easy to handle, like cold rooms or a glimpse of a figure in a chair…but as soon as Coyne understands that this isn’t happening by chance things ramp up and the book sets off at a break-neck pace. The reason I hate horror books is because I have a very visual mind, I don’t process words as words I process them as pictures…so with books like HSB I end up “seeing” far more than I want to and end up obsessing over it. I can’t even describe how freaked out I was over some of the scenes in this one. The more action based scenes definitely got the heart pumping but to me the best parts were the “quiet scenes” toward the beginning and middle of the book. I loved seeing how the story would unfold and I have to admit I didn’t see a good portion of the plot coming.
Coyne is not a particularly likeable guy overall. He’s gruff, crude, and self-indulgent; but as you see him try to handle the haunting and learn more about his past you see why he never puts the rockstar persona aside. Marybeth was much easier to like than Coyne, and I found that I was able to connect to him through her. As the story moves forward we get a lot more depth to both characters and I enjoyed seeing both of them fleshed out in a way I didn’t really expect from a one-shot horror novel.
Heart Shaped Box does has it’s flaws but it’s definitely a rollercoster ride of creep.