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Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

“Wild, mesmerizing, perversely witty….A Valentine from hell.”
—Janet Maslin, New York Times

The publication of Joe Hill’s beautifully textured, deliciously scary debut novel Heart-Shaped Box was greeted with the sort of overwhelming critical acclaim that is rare for a work of skin-crawling supernatural terror. It was cited as a Best Book of the Year by Atlanta magazine, the Tampa Tribune, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and the Village Voice, to name but a few. Award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling Neil Gaiman of The Sandman, The Graveyard Book, and Anansi Boys fame calls Joe Hill’s story of a jaded rock star haunted by a ghost he purchased on the internet, “relentless, gripping, powerful.” Open this Heart-Shaped Box from two-time Bram Stoker Award-winner Hill if you dare and see what all the well-deserved hoopla is about.

Book Description

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.

My short Review

Good page turner. Well written debut he knows how to spin a twist in a Tale of loss and redemption. Skillful character development you can’t help not care for the women involved in the story. He’s one author to look out for.

Critical Praise for Heart-Shaped Box

“A fast-paced journey on wheels borrowed from hell’s used-car lot, and there aren’t a lot of comfort breaks…The pictures [Hill] painted colored my dreams and darkened my mood even after I’d put the book down.”
— Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A relentlessly scary ghost story.”
— Bookseller (London)
[Hill]’s got horror down pat, and his debut is hair-raising fun.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“You can’t go wrong with Heart-Shaped Box.” Top Five Fiction-Books of 2007
— The Observer
“Powerful . . . a fast-paced plot that crackles with expertly planted surprises and revelations . . . a truly memorable debut.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Dark, taut, and deliciously terrifying. HEART-SHAPED BOX is a roaring good read.”
— New York Times bestselling author Kathy Reichs
“HEART-SHAPED BOX is, quite simply, the best debut horror novel since Clive Barker’s Damnation Game, twenty years ago. It’s the kind of book that the overworked adjectives people use on book jackets — relentless, gripping, powerful, a genuine page-turner — were really meant to describe, for it’s all of those things, and enormously smart besides. A genuinely scary novel filled with people you care about; the kind of book that still stays in your mind after you’ve turned over the final page. I loved it unreservedly.”
— Neil Gaiman
“Joe Hill’s HEART-SHAPED BOX starts with a premise that is as simple as it is brilliant: a ghost for sale on the Internet. But here is a tale that is far from a one-trick pony. It chills with every word, surprises with every page, and twists with every chapter. Here is a debut as literate as it is horrifying . . . and the resounding introduction of a new master in the field of suspense.”
— James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author of Map of Bones and Black Order
“I started reading HEART-SHAPED BOX late one evening and never put it down. The house could have caught fire and I never would have noticed. Joe Hill’s debut novel is rich with moments of terror and redemption and strangeness, but it’s also that rare beast of a book that hooks you from the very first paragraph and doesn’t let go. Books as good as this book, characters as interesting and likeable as these characters, writers like Joe Hill, don’t come along very often and when they do, you feel like celebrating. But why waste time reading a blurb when you could be starting in on the first couple of pages? Bet you keep on reading.”
— Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners and Stranger Things Happen
“A wild, mesmerizing, perversely witty tale of horror . . . . a Valentine from hell.”
— Janet Maslin, New York Times
“HEART-SHAPED BOX . . . rocks. It’s a flat-out, white-line, turbo-charged, relentless, bleakly humorous, and, above all, honest story . . . Hill’s fealty to the autumnal suspirations of the darkest sorts of dread is instantly apparent. And this, as they say, is just the beginning.”
— Austin Chronicle
[Hill]’s got horror down pat, and his debut is hair-raising fun.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Hill provides more than clammy artifacts and screeching brakes; he imbues Jude with certain ambiguities that lend depth to his tale.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“A thriller with moments of terror and genuine humor.”
— People (3 stars)
“[A] wrenching and effective ghost story . . . reads like good, early King mixed with some of the edgier splatterpunk sensibilities of David J. Schow . . . [HEART-SHAPED BOX] has genuinely touching emotional moments as well as action-packed confrontations with the dead.”
— Library Journal (starred review)
“A book of great promise, a ghost-story-thriller-road novel with a complex emotional core . . . [D]eeply readable and compelling . . . Like much of Hill’s fiction, this is a novel about masks, and pretense, and how difficult it is to ever truly know another person’s mind . . . Jude and Georgia’s journey is both epic and personal, and you won’t regret riding along with them.”
— Locus
“Hill’s heart-stopping debut enthralls from page one. The darkly eerie plot — about a disturbing ghost with seemingly unlimited power — is chilling.”
— Romantic Times (4½ stars — an RT “Top Pick!”)
“A relentlessly scary ghost story.”
— Bookseller (London)
“Hill is flawless in his ability to articulate frailties that humanize his characters and make the vulnerable to intrusions of the strange . . . . One of the most confident and assured new voices in horror and dark fantasy to emerge in recent years.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[HEART-SHAPED BOX] demonstrates two things: 1) Hill has inherited his father’s talent for macabre storytelling, and 2) he really, really likes ghosts. Scary ones . . . . Hill wastes no time sucking in readers. The suit shows up on page 9, weird stuff is happening by page 18 and the ghost makes his first appearance on page 29. By page 75 or so, Coyne is fighting for his life and you’ll be turning pages almost as fast as you can breathe . . . In Coyne, Hill has created a vivid protagonist. The aging rock star is a selfish, unsentimental guy who would be unsympathetic if he weren’t so sardonic and brutally honest. His relationship with the waifish Georgia proves surprisingly tender and resilient. And as villains go, Craddock is a whopper: a cruel, manipulative apparition who shadows his victims everywhere, climbs into their brains and drives them to madness . . . When it comes to efficient horror-suspense, HEART-SHAPED BOX proves the poisoned apple doesn’t fall far from the King family tree.
— Salt Lake City Tribune
“Unsettling . . . so many twists and shocks that readers will be white-knuckling their armchairs by novel’s end . . . . a fine mix of psychological terror and gruesome horror.”
— Denver Post
“A frightening, addictive road novel.”
— Rocky Mountain News
“A top-notch piece of horror fiction . . . artfully scary.”
— Time magazine
“The shocks in Hill’s riveting debut novel can be lurid and blood-drenched, or as quietly chilling as a casual phone call from an old, dead friend. A-”
— Entertainment Weekly
“Powerful . . . a fast-paced plot that crackles with expertly planted surprises and revelations . . . a truly memorable debut.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“You can’t go wrong with Heart-Shaped Box.” Top Five Fiction-Books of 2007
— The Observer
“Hill’s haunted road story is a treat for horror fans and will surprise those who think they dislike the genre.”
— Library Journal
“A fast-paced journey on wheels borrowed from hell’s used-car lot, and there aren’t a lot of comfort breaks…The pictures [Hill] painted colored my dreams and darkened my mood even after I’d put the book down.”
— Cleveland Plain Dealer
“[C]reepy…menacing.”
— The Brockville Recorder and Times (Ontario) The Brockville Recorder and Times (Ontario) The Brockville Recorder and Times (Ontario) on HEART-SHAPED BOX
“[A] gleefully morbid tale.”
— Kansas City Star on HEART-SHAPED BOX
“Hill writes some of the best ghost stories I’ve read in years.”
— Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners and Stranger Things Happen
“A genuinely scary novel filled with people you care about; the kind of book that still stays in your mind after you’ve turned over the final page. I loved it unreservedly.”
— Neil Gaiman

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 31 July 2011

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    Joe Hill talks about Heart-Shaped Box