Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals . . . a used hangman's noose . . . a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest purchase, an item he discovered on the Internet:
I will sell my stepfather's ghost to the highest bidder . . .
For a thousand dollars, Jude has become the owner of a dead man's suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no metaphorical ghost, no benign conversation piece. Suddenly the suit's previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door . . . seated in Jude's restored Mustang . . . staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting—with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one hand . . .
Heart-Shaped Box has not only been sitting on my bookshelf for years, it has been sitting on my small "read this one next" shelf pretty much the entire time. It's funny how that happens. Thanks to some gentle prodding from my friends on Goodreads, I have finally taken Heart-Shaped Box off the shelf and given it a read. I'm very glad that I did.
I love how Joe Hill jumps right into the story. We learn right away about Jude's collection of grotesque and bizarre things, and he wastes no time getting straight to the ghost of Craddock McDermott. Jude buys Craddock McDermott's ghost in an online auction and gets much more than another unusual object for his collection.
Heart-Shaped Box is not your typical ghost story. Jude and those closest to him are most definitely haunted, but it goes much deeper than that. The characters are raw and the relationships complex. I did worry about the lack of mystery surrounding the ghost and its origins, but there turned out to be lots of surprises along the way.
Heart-Shaped Box also made me realize how much I miss having a good, strong dog in my stories. I haven't experienced that since I quit reading Dean Koontz.
If you're like me and you've had Heart-Shaped Box on your list for a while, let me prod you into finally giving it a read. You will be glad you did.
7/10: Recommended Read