Debut Review: Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (Gollancz)

Title: Heart Shaped-Box
Author: Joe Hill
Publisher: Gollancz
Published: 01 May 2008
Own Copy


If you’re a rockstar who already has a collection of the macabre what is the harm of buying a dead man’s suit, with ghost attached, off the internet? For Jude Coyne it’s going to drag him to hell. Literally.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Jude Coyne is a descendent of the Prince of Darkness with rock and roll hell raising lyrics and all that entails and maybe at some time he was.  He still goes for young girls who stay for 9 months or there about and seem to all have names of states but now his past comes back to haunt him.


I don’t like gore and guts. I won’t watch films that aim to shock by visuals alone. I need to get inside someone’s head and feel what they feel and see what they see.  And this book is very much about what Jude Coyne sees and feels.

The strength Heart-Shaped Box is seeing beyond the act that the public see and seeing the consequences of actions and repeating cycles. The ghost is here to make him pay. But along the way we get an insight into what we see might not be what we get.

Sure it’s a horror tale but it’s more haunting that horrific. That is, it’s not about shock value. It lingers much like the ghost itself who gains control of Jude like a hypnotist and has him more than once about to kill Georgia until he’s snapped out of it by things that he holds dear.

One of the most memorable scenes takes place in a public place and breaks the illusion that these things happen in isolated places where there are no witnesses.

I suppose I should mention that Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King and all I’m going to say is that he’s inherited his father’s talent for people and he’s got his own way of telling a tale. Which are both great things.

I would have liked a few more confrontations between the ghost and Jude just to heighten my heart rate a little more than it was already.

But I’ve said before that the best stories are the ones that take the character and readers on journeys and change us both. And I enjoyed it all the way. I kept reading even when I should have been doing other things. I was sad when some things happened and happy at others. I’m eager to see where Joe Hill can take me next.


A striking, insightful and strong debut from a writer who if at the start of their career is playing with emotions and building characters like this then I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do when as he goes from apprentice to master.

Joe Hill is a new and striking voice in haunting fiction who can stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the masters of the genre.


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