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Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Title:  Heart-Shaped Box

Author:  Joe Hill

No. of Pages:  351

First Released:  February 2007

Synopsis (Courtesy of B&N):  “Sooner or later, the dead catch up . . .

Judas Coyne was a collector. The bizarre, the uncanny, the grotesque. A cookbook for cannibals. A used hangman’s noose. A snuff film. Many of these objects were gifts from the black-clad fans who made his metal band a legend and made him rich.

But not all. When his personal assistant told him there was a ghost for sale on the Internet, Jude knew he had to have it for his private collection, didn’t think twice. He should have. Jude has spent a lifetime evading ghosts — of an abusive father, of the bandmates he betrayed, of Anna, the suicidal girl he loved and abandoned. But this spirit is different. This one means to chase him to the edge of sanity.

His new acquisition — delivered to his doorstep in a black heart-shaped box — is the restless soul of Anna’s vengeful stepdaddy. Craddock McDermott swore he would settle with Jude for ruining his daughter’s life. Soon, everywhere Jude turns, Craddock is there: behind the bedroom door; in Jude’s restored vintage Mustang; outside his window; on his widescreen TV. Waiting — with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one bony hand.

If ever there was a case of caveat emptor, this is it . . .” 

Comments and Critique:  I mentioned when I started the RIP Challenge that I don’t do horror.  I can’t watch it on TV and in movies.  And I definitely can’t read about it (I don’t count anything with vampires because those just aren’t scary to me).  Still, I figured that to get into the spirit of the RIP Challenge itself, I needed to broaden my horizons and pick up something scary.  Other bloggers mentioned Heart-Shaped Box, and it somehow found its way into my home. 

It took me a while to read.  Almost from the first page, I found that I literally had to put down the book after so many pages because I just couldn’t take the tense or the dread anymore.  I was never truly scared to the point where I double-checked all locks and windows and couldn’t sleep well at night, but I approached the book each and every time with apprehension as I wondered what else was going to be thrown at the reader.

Mr. Hill tells one scary ghost story.  Rather than making Jude and the other characters the caricatures that you so often find in horror films, the reader sympathizes with them and roots for them. They grow and develop beyond the aging rock star and his much younger fangirl girlfriend.  There was a bit of a mystery to solve that, to me, was unexpected.  In addition, there was just a touch of romance and love that was again unexpected and touching in its simplicity.

Combined together, it makes for a compelling story.  Craddock is the perfect evil ghost.  The fantasy is not overdone, but only adds to the overall story.  While it isn’t a genre that I would normally pick up without some prompting, I would not hesitate to pick up another book by Mr. Hill.  For someone who doesn’t like horror, this is the highest complement I can bestow.

And with that, I have officially completed the RIP Challenge IV.  However, because I’m having so much fun reading spooky stories, I’m going to keep going and see how many of those on my TBR pile I can cross off while adding to my challenge tally!

Image: Signature Block

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