“A relentlessly scary ghost story.”
“You can’t go wrong with Heart-Shaped Box.” Top Five Fiction-Books of 2007
The Barnes & Noble Review
The buzz leading up to the publication of this book included one of publishing's worst-kept secrets: Joe Hill, the author of Heart-Shaped Box, is also Stephen King's son. This revelation really wouldn't mean anything if Hill's debut novel weren't a singularly unforgettable horror masterwork that will delight and disturb anyone who reads it. The apple, it seems, doesn't fall far from the tree…
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…
Regardless of Hill's literary bloodlines, the comparisons between Heart-Shaped Box and his father's works will be inevitable. Both share a narrative voice that is witty, engaging, and darkly stylish -- at once morbid, poetic, and profoundly moving. Additionally, both are masters of imagery, ambiance, and allusion. The different sections of Heart-Shaped Box, for example, all reference popular heavy metal songs (Zeppelin's "Black Dog," Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt," etc.), and Coyne's dogs are named after original AC/DC band members. Blending the wild world of rock 'n' roll with the baleful realm of the supernatural, Heart-Shaped Box marks the beginning of the literary reign of Joe Hill. All hail the new king! Paul Goat Allen
These are the bare bones of Heart-Shaped Box — literally, since the ghost is a skeletal old man. But Mr. Hill uses them to shockingly good effect, creating a wild, mesmerizing, perversely witty tale of horror. In a book much too smart to sound like the work of a neophyte, he builds character invitingly and plants an otherworldly surprise around every corner.
The New York Times
Stoker-winner Hill features a particularly merciless ghost in his powerful first novel. Middle-aged rock star Judas Coyne collects morbid curios for fun, so doesn't think twice about buying a suit advertised at an online auction site as haunted by its dead owner's ghost. Only after it arrives does Judas discover that the suit belonged to Craddock McDermott, the stepfather of one of Coyne's discarded groupies, and that the old man's ghost is a malignant spirit determined to kill Judas in revenge for his stepdaughter's suicide. Judas isn't quite the cad or Craddock the avenging angel this scenario makes them at first, but their true motivations reveal themselves only gradually in a fast-paced plot that crackles with expertly planted surprises and revelations. Hill (20th Century Ghosts) gives his characters believably complex emotional lives that help to anchor the supernatural in psychological reality and prove that (as one character observes) "horror was rooted in sympathy." His subtle and skillful treatment of horrors that could easily have exploded over the top and out of control helps make this a truly memorable debut. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
According to an October 19 USA TODAY story, Morrow picked up this first novel by a two-time Bram Stoker Award winner on its own literary merits, not knowing that Hill is the pen name of Joe King, son of Stephen. This reviewer wishes he had had the same opportunity. It's impossible to read this wrenching and effective ghost story without seeing Hill's father in it-which is not to say that it's bad. It reads like good, early King mixed with some of the edgier splatterpunk sensibilities of David J. Schow (The Kill Riff). Aging death-metal guitarist Judas Coyne, who's obsessed with the macabre, is living peacefully in upstate New York when he buys a dead man's haunted suit from an online auction site. (It arrives in a heart-shaped box.) Soon he and young Goth girlfriend Georgia are pulled into battle with the ghostly old man and their own shattered pasts. Predictable at times, the book has genuinely touching emotional moments as well as action-packed confrontations with the dead. Morrow has a huge media push behind this book, and film rights have already been sold to Warner Brothers. Recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/06.]-Karl G. Siewert, Tulsa City-Cty. Lib. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Hill, two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award for his short fiction, delivers a terrifyingly contemporary twist to the traditional ghost story with his first novel. Aging rock star Judas Coyne is a collector of bizarre and macabre artifacts: a used hangman's noose, a snuff film, and rare books on witchcraft. When he purchases a suit billed in an online auction as the haunted clothes of a recently deceased man, Coyne finds more than he bargained for. Everywhere he looks he sees the twisted spirit of an old and evil man following him and dangling a deadly razor on a chain. He learns that the suit belonged to Craddock McDermott, the stepfather of a former lover who committed suicide shortly after Coyne tossed her out of his life. McDermott, a professional hypnotist prior to his death, swore to destroy Coyne's rock-star life of self-indulgence to avenge her death. The behind-the-scenes look at stardom alongside the frightening pyrotechnics of McDermott's ghost will draw in teens who really enjoy a good scare. But like all good ghost stories, Hill also crafts a deftly plotted mystery as McDermott's true motivations and powers unfold. The depth of character hidden in the dark shadows of both men lifts what could otherwise be a formula supernatural thriller to an impressive debut.
Matthew L. MoffettCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A rock star buys a ghost who chases him from New York to Florida, blood spurting all the way. Jude Coyne, after a career in the darker reaches of the rock-music world, lives in upstate New York with Georgia, the latest in a succession of young pierced admirers he calls by the states of their birth. Georgia's predecessor, Florida, is at the heart of the troubles that arrive when Coyne answers an ad offering a ghost, something special to add to his collection of creepy items that includes a Mexican snuff film. The ghost inhabits a garish suit of clothes that arrives in a heart-shaped box, and the situation is a set-up. Knowing Coyne's taste for the weird, Florida's sister has inveigled him into buying the soul of her and Florida's stupendously evil stepfather, Craddock, a stinker who learned a lot of very bad magic as a soldier in Vietnam. The motive is the apparent suicide of Florida, who Coyne sent home after one too many bouts of depression. Craddock's ghost immediately gets into Coyne's head, urging him to murder Georgia and then commit suicide. Coyne resists, but the bad vibes are too much for his gay personal assistant, who flees the farm and hangs himself. Craddock persists in his attack on Coyne, using a ghostly truck as his assault vehicle. Lesser rock stars would have capitulated early on, but Georgia turns out to be full of spunk, and Coyne's German Shepherds are fierce protectors who the ghost greatly fears. To get rid of Craddock, Coyne figures he will have to go to Florida to find out just what did happen to make that ghost such an abusive spirit. Much will be made of the kinship of Hill and his superstar father, Stephen King, but Hill can stand on his own two feet. He's gothorror down pat, and his debut is hair-raising fun. Film rights to Warner Bros.