Book review: Heart-Shaped Box

★★★☆☆

While Heart-Shaped Box was Joe Hill’s first novel, it’s the second book of his that I’ve read, after NOS4A2 earlier this summer. This novel isn’t quite as good as that one, but it’s still very enjoyable and only about as third as long.

Jude Coyne, an aging rock star, collects occult and otherwise weird items and is tricked into buying the ‘ghost’ of a man—and his suit—who turns out to be the step-father of a past dead girlfriend, Anna. The seller is Anna’s sister, Jessica and she blames Coyne for the girl’s suicide and so the ghost is meant to terrorize and eventually kill him and his loved ones.

But it turns out, Anna didn’t kill herself. She was going to expose the truth about the horrible things their stepfather did to them and to Jessica’s daughter, so they killed her. They’re going after Coyne because he might know something about what they did, apparently, which seems a bit less plausible even if this is a horror novel featuring ghosts, metaphysical travel and other supernatural elements. It’s easy to understand why the ghost of a dead woman’s father might haunt the person responsible for causing her to commit suicide, not so much when that father was the one who actually murdered her.

Coyne has an estranged relationship with his dying father and hasn’t seen him in-person in over three decades. It’s no surprise that the ghost chases Coyne and his current girlfriend, Marybeth, from their home in New York State through Georgia, Florida, and eventually to his father’s home in Louisiana where the novel has its climax that I won’t spoil further. When you write horror novels and are the son of Stephen King, as Joe Hill is, comparisons to his works are going to be made and one common complaint with King’s novels is the way they end.