When aging rocker Judas Coyne buys a ghost on the internet, he doesn't take it seriously. That is, until a musty old suit shows up in a heart-shaped box. Soon, Judas begins to see the horrifying spectre of a man wearing the suit. Things take a sinister turn and people start dying so Judas and his girlfriend Georgia go looking for the woman who sold him the suit, the sister of his deceased ex-girlfriend. Can Judas stop the man in the suit from destroying his life?
After NOS4A2, I thought it best to tackle some of Joe Hill's earlier books. His debut novel did not disappoint.
Heart-Shaped Box is a tale of revenge from beyond the grave. Craddock was a suitably creepy antagonist. When your enemy can control your mind, how can you stop him? The powerlessness that Judas felt for a good portion of the story made the story that much more effective.
Hill's writing is like his dad's, back when his dad was still emulating the late Richard Matheson and John D. MacDonald. It flows very well and doesn't get overly flowery. When a ghost is driving people mad, the prose doesn't have to be purple to be enjoyable.
Judas and Georgia wound up being much more developed than I originally thought. As Judas' background was explored, I understood how he got to where he was. Same with Georgia, aka Marybeth.
Joe's about as nice to his main characters as his old man. Judas and Georgia went through the wringer on the way to the end of the story and there was no magic to fix their grievous injuries.
Since Judas is an aging rock star, I expected a lot more references to music and musicians. I liked that his dogs were named after members of AC/DC. There were a disproportionate amount of Trent Reznor references, which I found odd since Judas is in his mid-50's. I'll chalk that up to Nine Inch Nails being some of Joe Hill's favorite music.
It was creepy but didn't keep me up at night. 4 stars.