Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
I’ve wanted to read this book for AGES and I am so glad I finally did. If you’re looking for something spooky to read for October (aren’t we all?), Heart-Shaped Box would be a perfect choice.
Judas Coyne is a goth rock star just a bit past his prime (think Alice Cooper). His fans are loyal and the ladies still love him. He has a penchant for the macabre and collects some seriously sinister stuff. Like, a used hangman’s noose, a 300-year-old witch’s confession, and a snuff film (which comes into play later in the story and which will haunt my nightmares for the rest of my life). When his assistant finds a ghost for sale on one of Jude’s favorite online marketplaces, Jude has to have it. The ghost arrives on Saturday in the form of the suit it wore when it was a living man. The suit (and ghost) are packaged in a heart-shaped box. Jude is immediately repelled by the suit. His dogs react to the suit with shrilled, panicked barking. Georgia (Jude always nicknames his girlfriends after the state they’re from) is pierced with a pin hiding in the suit. To say this doesn’t bode well is the understatement of the century. The next day, Georgia’s hand was swollen and sore where the pin pricked it. That night, Jude sees the ghost for the first time. Aaaand, he’s done. Monday, he calls the seller of the ghost to make arrangements for its return. Jessica Price tells Jude there are no refunds and that he could send the suit back but the ghost won’t leave him. She targeted Jude specifically. She sent her stepfather’s ghost to haunt him because of what he did to her sister, Anna May McDermott - who Jude nicknamed Florida. Stepdad found Anna May / Florida dead in the bathtub, her wrists slit. Jessica accused Jude of treating her sister like garbage. Neither she nor her stepfather ever forgave him. This is their revenge.
What follows is the ghost’s terrifying psychological and physical torturing of Jude and everyone close to him. The haunting will lead Jude and Georgia on a road trip to Florida to confront Jessica Price. They’ll be forced to face their demons along the way. The ending includes two huge showdowns that had me turning pages as fast as I could - one of which reminded me of Brad Pitt’s epic smackdown of the Manson family in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (we all know the true hero of that scene is the dog, though - such is the case in this story, as well. SHOUTS TO DOGS).
What author Joe Hill is so good at (as is his father, Stephen King) is character writing. He made me care about Jude and Georgia so much I didn’t want the story to end. And this was Joe’s debut novel. I highly recommend his novel N0S4A2 (one of my all-time favorite horror stories). Strange Weather and Full Throttle are excellent short story collections that I also recommend. Tis the season for Joe Hill!