Playing off the trope of the aging rock star musician with a dark side to his soul, author Joe Hill, introduces us to the aging, selfish and self-centered rock star named Judas Coyne, who has a rather unhealthy interest in all things macabre. A collector of the weird, bizarre and down right freaky, his growing collection of items that would make even the most zealous lover of the strange think twice .
Such items as drawings and paintings done by serial killer John Wayne Gacy, a skull from the 16th century with a hole drilled into it while the person was still alive, a hangman’s noose used in an actual execution, and the like are some of his most treasured possessions. Then he gets wind of a ghost for sale on an online auction site and he immediately puts in a bid. Soon the ghost becomes part of his collection of the macabre.
Anchored to an old black suit, the spirit swiftly makes itself known as it intrudes into both dreams and reality. In a synchronistic plot twist, Judas does have an indirect link to the dark spirit he has brought on himself. The spirit in the suit turns out to be Craddock McDermott, the abusive stepfather of one of Coyne’s now deceased former groupie/girlfriends who blames Coyne for his daughter’s death. This is a revenge plot but, through the clever twists and turns, it is sometimes hard to know who is seeking revenge on whom and if redemption is possible for anyone.
The storyline maintains a tight focus even through the intense vision sequences, not wavering from its point or losing any of the energy of the tension it unfolds. Foregoing the usual tricks and horror tropes, “Heart-Shaped Box” finds a true empathy for the protagonist and spices its fright with just that small, needed taste of funny.
Joe Hill, son of famed horror writer Stephen King, shows that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree with his first novel Heart-Shaped Box. Winning the Bram Stoker Award for best first novel this is without a doubt one of the creepiest books you will ever read. Dark, terrifying and deeply disturbing, “Heart Shaped Box” assures that you may never sleep with the lights off again. Published February 13, 2007, it continues to be a must-read volume amongst horror fans.