Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, Reviewed by Stacey Panton

Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill’s follow-up to his limited-release first novel 20th Century Ghosts, is an adrenaline-rush of heart-pounding moments, combining the macarbe with the everyday. The result is a terrifyingly believable experience that will latch on to your mind and refuse to budge, even if the book is stored in the freezer…

If that sounded intense, the book itself will shock. I found it by accident while having a quick scan though the Tesco Bargain Books; the black cover with striking silver title, named after a Nirvana song (one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite bands) immediately caught my eye, and, after reading the blurb, I was more than happy to part with a few quid to give it a go. I can honestly say it was £6 well spent. Following the story of Judas Coyne, an ‘ageing death-metal-rock-god’ born with the name Justin, who receives an email suggesting an auction on a poltergeist, or more the funeral suit with the spirit attached. Regarding it as a fitting addition to his collection, which already includes a cannibal’s cookbook and a genuine snuff movie, he bids, and wins. However, the suit, which arrives in a heart-shaped box, is more than just a well-sold novelty – as Jude, his dogs, and those around him soon find out. Escaping the violent outbursts in the house, which targets all living things that dare enter, Jude, Georgia (his latest booty call) and the dogs, Angus and Bon (ring a few bells?) set off in Jude’s old Mustang, driving across the states to, with hope, find out why they have been targetted, and put an end to it all. That’s if the poltergeist doesn’t put an end to them first…
The chilling suspense is what has stayed with me even when the book is shut. It takes a lot for a book to mean anything to me – the only book to ever have made me cry was Wuthering Heights; the only to make me sympathise was Never Let Me Go; the only to ever scare me into only reading with the lights on and my phone at my side has been this. I can honestly say that at countless moments my heart has been racing and my fingernails at severe risk. The appearance of Georgia, with her black hair and pale skin, and the attitude of ‘rock-god’ Judas kept my interest from the start, and the curiosity as to whether the main character will even survive through the pages has kept me turning them. Rather than just another supernatural thriller, the rock aspect of the characters, as well as Joe Hill’s adoptive style of truly haunting writing provides the much-needed twist on such a worn-out genre. As someone who always likes to put a little research into anything I find interesting, I looked up Joe Hill, only to find the reason behind his talent laid in the person who gave him his full name – Joseph Hillstrom King. I’ll be sure to read 20th Century Ghosts, and look out for any further releases.

Sooner or later, the dead catch up…

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