BOOK REVIEW: HEART-SHAPED BOX
Looking for a ghost story thatís miles above the rest? Look no further than Joe Hillís perversely twisted page-turning Heart-shaped Box. Itís a book with genuine thrills, shocks, and scares that will make you see the wisdom of the saying "caveat emptor." Rock singer Jude Coyne, collector of the macabre, didnít heed this warning that translate to "Let the buyer beware," and bought a manís ghost through an online auction. It wasnít some friendly ghost, like Casper, but one hell-bent on seeking revenge, the ghost of Craddock McDermott.
Heís come back from the dead, sold by his step daughter, the harpy-like Jessica Price, who has set up the auction knowing that Jude wonít be able to resist and will buy the ghost. Jude, through his assistant, Danny, opts to end the auction by paying one thousand dollars and buying it outright. He gets sent the dark, Johnny Cash type suit that Craddock was supposed to have been buried in, mailed in a black heart-shaped box. It was the manís favorite suit, and Craddockís soul travels with it to Judeís house to enact what Craddock plans to be a bloody revenge for Judeís destroying his family by loving and leaving his daughter, Anna, who returns home, and slashes her wrists in a bathtub, bleeding to death.
Jude has a long history of having sex with and dumping his teenaged female Goth fans, whom he generally refers to, not by their names, but by the states they come from. For instance, Anna he called Florida, and the one he is currently living with he refers to as Georgia. He thinks calling them by their real names will make them too real, too human, and will cause the inevitable future break-ups with them to be more difficult for him.
Craddock had been an expert at psychological warfare and hypnotism in the military. He uses these skills against Jude and Georgia, trying to convince Jude to murder her, or for her to kill herself. He attempts to fill them with dread, and the feeling that their deaths canít be prevented by anything they do, so they should just give in and "ride the Night Road" with him. Killing Jude isnít enough for Craddock; he wants to everyone who helps or loves Jude to also die. His voice still has the same hypnotic power it did in life--he persuades Judeís assistant, Danny, to hang himself, and almost succeeds in forcing Jude to commit suicide by breathing in exhaust fumes from his Mustang. Itís only his dogsí wild barking and Geogia who save him.
Heart-Shaped Box is a book thatíll haunt you long after you put it down. Itís a modern ghost story that reminded me of Stephen King at his best, with books like The Shining, one of my favorites of his works. Too many ghost stories are frankly kind of lame, and donít live up to their promised thrills and chills. Heart-Shaped Box, on the other hand, lives up to the promises and hype, and itís a book I highly recommend to anyone who loves thrillers and horror novels
REVIEWED BY DOUGLAS R. COBB
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