Aging death-metal rock legend Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals...a used hangman's noose...a snuff film. But nothing he possesses is as unique or as dreadful as his latest purchase off the Internet: a one-of-a-kind curiosity that arrives at his door in a black heart-shaped box...a musty dead man's suit still inhabited by the spirit of its late owner. And now everywhere Judas Coyne goes, the old man is there—watching, waiting, dangling a razor blade on a chain from his bony hand.
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Do you sleep with the light on? Are you in the habit of checking your doors and windows before you go to bed? Maybe even checking under your bed? If you are about to crack open Joe Hill's chilling thriller Heart-Shaped Box, you might want to rethink your nighttime habits--Hill's story about an aging rock star (with a penchant for macabre artifacts) who buys a haunted suit online will scare you silly. But don't take our word for it. We asked bestselling authors (and masters of dark terror tales themselves) Scott Smith, and Harlan Coben to read Heart-Shaped Box and give us their take. Check out their reviews below, and you might want to pick up a nightlight while you're at it. --Daphne Durham
| Guest Reviewer: Scott Smith |
In 1993, Scott Smith wowed readers with his stunning debut thriller, A Simple Plan. Thirteen years later, he spooked us again with The Ruins, a horror-thriller about four Americans traveling in Mexico who stumble across a nightmare in the jungle.
The set-up for Joe Hill's novel, Heart-Shaped Box, is appealingly simple. Jude Coyne, an aging rock star, buys himself a dead man's suit. He acquires it online, lured by the promise that the dead man's ghost will be included in his purchase. Jude thinks this is a joke, of course. He also assumes the seller is a stranger. We soon discover that he's wrong on both counts, however, and from this point on the story moves with an exhilarating urgency. Jude wants the ghost gone; the ghost wants Jude dead. We watch, chapter-by-chapter, as they battle for survival. "Watch" is the appropriate word, too, because this is an extremely visual book. Hill's prose is lean and precise, and he renders Jude's world with impressive confidence. It feels solid, every detail both correct and fresh. And this physicality provides a firm platform for the book's otherworldly happenings, which seem all the more frightening for being so securely grounded.
Hill has a flawless sense of pacing. His narrative never flags, nor does it ever move so quickly as to outrun itself. And one can sense his literary ambition pushing at the margins of the genre. There are times when his writing, for all its spare efficiency, seems to jump away from him, stopping one small step short of poetry. An e-mail to Jude from the ghost (trust me, it's not as absurd as it sounds) could even pass for something ee cummings might've written, in an especially morbid mood. And toward the end of the book, when Hill describes a trip down death's "night road" in a '65 Mustang, the passage has a startlingly lyrical beauty.
The story's horror ultimately has as much to do with Jude Coyne's past--his mistakes, abandonments and betrayals--as with anything supernatural. Jude has caused a lot of pain over the years, moving through life with a carelessness that verges on the callous. His battle with the ghost brings this behavior into sharp relief, forcing him to reflect upon his own capacity for cruelty. This dawning self-awareness leavens the book's bleakness and gore (and it is delightfully gory in places) with an unexpected sweetness. Despite our initial impression, Jude is gradually revealed--both to himself and the reader--as an essentially decent, even kind man. It's this kindness, this fledgling ability to love and be loved, that will ultimately be of crucial consequence in his death struggle with the ghost. And it's what makes Hill's debut not only well-written and terrifying, but also--as it draws to its close--surprisingly moving. So go ahead, take a chance, and open his Heart-Shaped Box. I think you’ll be happy you did. --Scott Smith
| Guest Reviewer: Harlan Coben |
Harlan Coben is the author of the beloved Myron Bolitar series about a wisecracking sports agent, as well as stunning stand-alone novels like The Innocent and his breakout thriller Tell No One. His new novel The Woods releases on April 17, 2007.
You, dear reader, are obviously somewhat versed in making online purchases, so today, immediately after you click on the yellow "Add to Shopping Cart" on the top right hand corner of this page, why not do an online search and buy something totally unique?
Like, say, a vengeful ghost.
That is what rock-star Judas Coyne does, thinking it will be a laugh, fun for his "sick-o" collection of such things. It seems a random buy, but Judas soon learns that it is anything but. This particular ghost is one Craddock McDermott, step-father to recent suicide victim and boy, is he cranky. He demands revenge for his step-daughter’s death, which he blames on Judas’s shabby treatment of her.
Or is he after something else?
There are Amazon readers who will give you a better plot summary. Don't read them too closely because Joe Hill provides plenty of fun surprises. Heart-Shaped Box is a true spine-tingler. I don’t use that hyphenated word much anymore. We have seen and read it all, haven't we? But right away, in the first chapter, there was a subtle line that made the hairs on the back of my neck go up in a way I haven't experienced since I first discovered great horror as a teenager.
Hill writes with a sure hand. The prose is compelling. Like most memorable tales of horror, this book is more about redemption than scary moments--though Heart-Shaped Box has plenty of scares. They are visceral, shocking and very well done. The characters are flawed and real. The father-son relationship adds texture and surprising poignancy.
So here's the thing. My guess is, you won’t find a ghost to buy online, but if you read the Heart-Shaped Box, you will be getting something that will haunt you and startle you and stay with you and yes, visit you in your dreams.
Sleep well, dear reader. --Harlan Coben
Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals . . . a used hangman's noose . . . a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest discovery, an item for sale on the Internet, a thing so terribly strange, Jude can't help but reach for his wallet.
I will "sell" my stepfather's ghost to the highest bidder. . . .
For a thousand dollars, Jude will become the proud owner of a dead man's suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. He isn't afraid. He has spent a lifetime coping with ghosts—of an abusive father, of the lovers he callously abandoned, of the bandmates he betrayed. What's one more?
But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no imaginary or metaphorical ghost, no benign conversation piece. It's the real thing.
And suddenly the suit's previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door . . . seated in Jude's restored vintage Mustang . . . standing outside his window . . . staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting—with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one bony hand. . . .
A multiple-award winner for his short fiction, author Joe Hill immediately vaults into the top echelon of dark fantasists with a blood-chilling roller-coaster ride of a novel, a masterwork brimming with relentless thrills and acid terror.
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Book Description Gollancz, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110575079126
Book Description Victor Gollancz, London, 2007. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First Edition, First Impression. Signed bookplate Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Signed by Author. Bookseller Inventory # 10273
Book Description Gollancz, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. 12mo - over 6¾ - 7¾" tall. BRAND NEW SIGNED BY AUTHOR OF THIS RELENTLESS, GRIPPING, POWERFUL A GENUINE PAGE TURNER HARDCOVER FIRST EDITION Brilliant horror debut novel. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # 000053
Book Description Gollancz, 2007. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First (1st) Edition. SIGNED & Doodled y Joe Hill . Book is Unread . Front/Back: NEW . Spine: NEW . Printing: 1 . Year: 2007. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # 128
Book Description Gollancz, 2007. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First (1st) Edition. SEALED . SIGNED by Joe Hill . Limited Edition . Slipcased Edition . Book is Unread . Front/Back: NEW . Spine: NEW . Printing: . Year: 2007. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # 1147
Book Description Gollancz, 2007. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First (1st) Edition. SEALED . SIGNED by Joe Hill . Limited Edition . Slipcased Edition . Book is Unread . Front/Back: NEW . Spine: NEW . Printing: . Year: 2007. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # 1188
Book Description Gollancz, 2007. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First (1st) Edition. SIGNED by Joe Hill . Book is Unread . Front/Back: NEW . Spine: NEW . Printing: 1 . Year: 2007. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # 1289
Book Description Gollancz, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. 12mo - over 6¾ - 7¾" tall. RARE BRAND NEW SIGNED LIMITED EDITION IN SLIP COVER STILL SEALED RELENTLESS, GRIPPING, POWERFUL A GENUINE PAGE TURNER HIGHLY COLLECTABLE HARDCOVER FIRST EDITION Brilliant horror debut novel. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # 000054
Book Description Gollancz, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. Rare Slipcased Limited Edition Still in Original Cellophane Wrapped Signed and Numbered. Doodled Books® aim is to sell unique trend setting books for book collectors. Doodled Books® is a fully trademarked and limited company based in the United Kingdom - so shop with confidence - we are the Official Doodled Bookstore Worldwide. Every dispatched book is protected in removable film. We pack each product with bubble wrap and packaging peanuts and place inside a cardboard box. This ensures that your rare book arrives in perfect condition. If you have any questions about our products please get in touch. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # 000269