Heart-shaped Box, by Joe Hill

Judas Coyne, rockstar and purveyor of the weird and the macabre, buys a ghost off the Internet. The ghost turns out not to be his biggest fan…

Hill writes like dear old dad, Stephen King: magnetizing. He keeps you reading. He looks like his father as well, going by the author-photo on the back of the book.

However, even if they do share the same “I must keep reading, tell me what happens”-talent, they go about it in different ways. The way Joe uses the English language is quite different. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is quite differing styles.

Jude is not the most sympathetic person around. He’s got his own issues from growing up in an abusive household in Louisiana, and has never quite learned how to deal with that, apart from running away. He had an act going on like Ozzy Osbourne, but Jude’s band fell apart when two members died. He now lives on a big farm with his current goth-lady, and his two dogs. He;s into the macabre, as we learn right in the first chapter: he’s got a hangman’s noose, a witch’s contract, and even a real snuff-movie. Adding a ghost to the collection is just the cherry to his whipped cream. The ghost, and the suit it haunts, is bought off the Internet, and delivered. Jude feels uncomfortable the moment he signs for the package, and he’s right. All goes to hell in a heart-shaped box, the one the suit came in. His current squeeze, Marybeth ‘Georgia’ Kimball, pricks herself on a hidden pin, and develops a rather nasty infection. His assistent kills himself.

The ghost is not any old ghost, it’s the stepfather of the girl before his current goth-girl who lived with Jude. Anna ‘Florida’ McDermott had a slew of psychological problems, and killed herself after Jude’d sent her back home. Ostentatiously, the ghost is looking for revenge. But as Jude gets pissed off enough to go looking up the woman who sold him the suit (Anna’s sister), he finds out the real truth.

I didn’t like finding that out. It skeeved me out, and I wanted the people involved to die.

That said, the book’s well-written, fast-paced, and the characters, flaws and all, are interesting enough to make you root for their survival. Though through all this I wonder why Georgia stuck with Jude.


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