Review: Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Rating: 7/10


Aging, self-absorbed rock star Judas Coyne has a thing for the macabre — his collection includes sketches from infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy, a trepanned skull from the 16th century, a used hangman’s noose, Aleister Crowley’s childhood chessboard, etc. — so when his assistant tells him about a ghost for sale on an online auction site, he immediately puts in a bid and purchases it.

The black, heart-shaped box that Coyne receives in the mail not only contains the suit of a dead man but also his vengeance-obsessed spirit. The ghost, it turns out, is the stepfather of a young groupie who committed suicide after the 54-year-old Coyne callously used her up and threw her away. Now, determined to kill Coyne and anyone who aids him, the merciless ghost of Craddock McDermott begins his assault on the rocker’s sanity.


Joe Hill’s debut novel is a bone-chilling ghost story with its own take on what comes after death.

I recently read Horns. It was my first Joe Hill book and I was completely enthralled with the one-sentence chapters and the stunning characters that materialized in almost no time at all. So naturally I ordered three more Joe Hill books. Heart-Shaped Box is the first of those three that I’ve read.

Hill’s writing is succinct and powerful. Where some writers build the story through meandering chapters and tests of character, Joe Hill’s stories cut right to the quick. You know Judas Coyne’s personality in just the first couple of chapters, and his shortcomings are apparent and stick out like a sore thumb. Judas is a mostly self-centered rockstar obsessed with the strange, unique, and grotesque, and it’s just that obsession that comes around and bites him in the ass.

I won’t spoil anything, but this book is full of little tricks and twists that keep you guessing from chapter to chapter. I sensed that there was something not being said as I was reading the story, and if you read between the lines maybe you too can sus it out. Needless to say, it’s every bit the spooky ghost book that becomes a cross-country race against time.

Wait for a cold, dark night, when the only light on in the house is the one on your bedside table. Then open up Heart-Shaped Box and get ready for some spine-tingling scares.

Next up for me is probably NOS4A2. More Joe Hill!

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