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Heart-Shaped Box: A Novel
by Joe Hill

Published: 2000-10-13
Kindle Edition : 400 pages
1 member reading this now
12 clubs reading this now
3 members have read this book

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 ...

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Introduction

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.

Editorial Review

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 youâ??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-daughterâ??s death, which he blames on Judasâ??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 donâ??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 wonâ??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



Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

Have you ever had any brushes with the paranormal? What was your experience like?
There are a lot of references to music in this book-- did you find it distracting to the story, or that it enhanced the telling of Jude's story?
by LynnL716 (see profile) 10/04/11

A performer's persona: the mask celebrities wear onstage (Ozzy Osborne & Marilyn Manson)
What scares you?
by sleepylrh (see profile) 10/26/10

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Horrific munchies
by sleepylrh (see profile) 10/26/10
A perfect Halloween-themed book choice with a musical theme. Any heart-shaped "bloody" red velvet goodies would fit nicely along plus some down-home grammy's cooking, lemonade and goth dress & music.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "Scary, good read!"by LynnL716 (see profile) 10/04/11

Our group enjoyed this book. It was scary, images that will stay with us for a bit. The characters are well developed, and the story is different, and fun even though it's very creepy.

 
  "A Scary Musical Debut"by sleepylrh (see profile) 10/26/10

Joe Hill may be the new prince of horror thanks to his royal lineage (Stephen King's son) and he earned attention rightfully so with his nuanced short story collection "20th Century Ghosts." This is his... (read more)

 
  "It was just OK"by setblumer (see profile) 04/14/08

I thought it had a great start and an amazing finish, but towards the end it bored me a little and I felt I could skim through it. The beginning kept you on the edge of your seat and scared... (read more)

 
  "Group was split on who finished it or not."by catnipper (see profile) 11/13/07

If you have folks in your book club that like scary and/or like Stephen King, this will begin a great fun discussion on the books. I did not finish it, but there were those that enjoyed the book in the... (read more)

 
  "A creepy ghost story."by mwatkins (see profile) 11/13/07

I enjoyed this book very much and recommend it to others who enjoy the genre. I thought that it was a new twist on a ghost story and very original. I read late into the night to finish the tale and continued... (read more)

 
  "Disappointing for such a great Storyline"by jaseifert (see profile) 10/13/07

For the son of Stephen and Tabitha King, I guess I expected a lot more. The storyline was so intriguing that when you combine the two, and excellent novel should have developed. Instead I thought it... (read more)

 
  "Awesome book. :)"by wyndy (see profile) 09/21/07

Judas Coyne is not the most loveable character when you first meet him, but as with most situations, if you look a little deeper you may be surprised at what you find. In essence, if you like his father,... (read more)

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