Five Easy Pieces

August 15, 2007

Heart-Shaped Box

Filed under: Books — danletscher @ 9:28 pm

Joe Hill has written a helluva good ghost story.  It’s a supernatural bonanza of revenge and survival.  Judas Coyne is a retired death-metal recording artist.  He’s in his early fifties and lives with his 23-year-old girlfriend Georgia (actually it Mary Beth, but she is the latest in a long line of girlfriends he nicknames by the state they’re from) in a secluded house in rural New York.  He also is an avid collector of all things morbid, macabre and of the occult.  One day his assistant Danny discovers a ghost for sale on the internet, a commodity in the form of a black suit the ghost wore in his corporeal state.  After reading the history of the ghost, Jude doesn’t hesitate – he pays the $1,000 “buy it now” price tag and forgets about it.

The suit arrives in a large heart-shaped box and the book takes off from there and hardly lets up for the next 350+ pages.  The reader soon discovers Jude didn’t come across this suit by chance.  A deep, dark history involving the ghost, Jude and “Florida” (former girlfriend Anna) emerges.  The ghost doesn’t waste any time pushing his agenda of death upon Jude and Georgia.  Aided by Jude’s dogs (Bon and Angus, a tribute to the original singer and guitarist of AC/DC), Jude and Georgia escape the horrors of home and head on a bloody road trip to find the answer of how to rid themselves of the ghost.

This is Hill’s first novel (he has a collection of short stories published prior to this) and he has created an original and engrossing read.  The book is littered with musical references which are humorous, not gimmicky.  The violence and gore is plentiful.  The dreams and visions Jude pulls the reader into – some his own, some fueled by the ghost – are harrowing and flush with excellent description and suspense.  It reminds me of good Stephen King, before he got sidetracked into bloated, lackluster “thrillers” like Bag of Bones, Hearts of Atlantis and Cell.

Stephen King should take this book and read it a few times.  It may stir up some fresh “old” ideas for him.  And by the way, if King needs some advice from Joe Hill, I’m sure Joe would never turn down a call from his dear old dad…

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