By Joe Hill
William Morrow, 2007. 376 pages. Horror
Now retired, aging rock star Judas Coyne has taken up several hobbies, one of which includes collecting macabre and bizarre artifacts from all over the world. So when a haunted suit appears on an online auction site one day, Jude purchases it without a second thought.
The suit arrives in a heart-shaped box. That night, Jude and his girlfriend, Georgia, begin to see an old man stalking the halls of their home. The ghost, dressed in the black Sunday suit, wields a deadly crescent-shaped razor that he uses to hypnotize his victims. Danny, Jude's manager, is the first to fall victim to the ghost's macabre lullabies. Georgia tries to shoot herself. And when the ghost comes for Jude, he realizes the specter is more malevolent than he can stand, and must try to rid himself of the being.
Jude soon learns the suit belonged to Craddock McDermott, stepfather to one of Jude's former lovers who committed suicide shortly after he left her. McDermott swore to avenge her death . . . but as the story unfolds and the ghost's true motivations come to light, Jude and Georgia find themselves locked in a bloody fight for their lives, for justice for the dead, and maybe even their very souls.
Clever, chilling, at times humorous, and even touching, Heart-Shaped Box is a standout ghost story. At first, Jude is a brusque, unlikable character who wins readers over through his sheer gumption and grit, and the way his relationship with Georgia shifts from tolerance to true affection of the course of the novel is admirable. Craddock makes a truly terrifying antagonist, with black scribbles over his eyes and the patience in his malevolence. While not overly gory, this one still requires a high tolerance for frightening imagery and razor-edged tension. Highly recommended.