A compelling character and exquisite storytelling combine to make Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box one of the best books I've read. Comparison to authors living or dead is inevitable, but I'm certain that Hill is destined for long-term success.
A novel rarely thrives on good writing alone. In Judas Coyne, Hill has created a character of depth who is, in so many ways, unlike anyone you've ever known. And yet, before the novel ends, you'll be completely involved in his story.
Coyne is the last surviving member of an iconic death-metal band. As he ages, his fan-base stays the same age, and thus he finds himself a god among a certain breed of disaffected youth. He collects death memorabilia - a snuff film, a cookbook for cannibals, a hangman's noose - and his fans are constantly sending him things related that they believe he will appreciate.
Then one day his assistant alerts him to an online auction site offering for sale "one ghost." Something about the offering attracts Judas, and before you know it, he's the owner of a "heart-shaped box," containing a spirit out for very specific revenge.
Truly, to tell any more will ruin the story. Let me just say it is grounded in reality and where it departs, the psychological thrills are so believable you'll find it hard to sleep.
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Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
ISBN 9780061147937 William Morrow (HarperCollins) March 2007 (Hardcover) $24.95 376 pp.