Judas Coyne is an aging death-metal rock legend with a penchant for collecting the macabre. Anything from cookbooks for cannibals to snuff films! Each of these strange and sinister artifacts serve to enhance his Goth/Rock image...and his fans love it! But his latest acquisition, purchased from the internet for a thousand dollars, is about to become the most dreadful and disturbing of all within his gruesome collection.
It arrives at his door in a black heart-shaped box. A musty old suit which used to rest upon the ancient frame of its deceased owner...and still does...in the form of his malevolent, lingering spirit. Now wherever Judas Coyne goes so does the old man, a gleaming razor blade dangling from a chain suspended between his long dead fingers...watching...waiting...wanting more than just a place to haunt!
ReviewI need to get this off my chest...( no...not the hair before you ask!...I’ll wax that later )...It’s this: Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King. Why am I telling you this? Well for two reasons...1) You’ll find out in a moment...2) It’s my review and as such it pleases me to do so. I thank you for your patience. You see, the crux of the matter is this, it boils my blood when I read reviews regarding this author and so many compare his work to that of his father. Indeed one particular reviewer bought Heart-Shaped Box solely because Stephen King was Joe Hill’s father as he ‘always enjoyed reading King’s novels’ whilst another reviewer avoided Hill’s work because he was the son of Stephen King!!!! Unbelievable!! Maybe I’m mistaken here but from what I gather Hill + King, despite one’s relation to the other, are not conjoined! They share the same DNA not the same body!...not even the same pen!...(ok I’m not sure about the latter but I strongly suspect I am right about this).
The entire notion of such a comparison is ridiculous! Look at it this way. Apparently S. King’s father, Donald Edwin King, was a merchant seaman whom, when Stephen was two years of age, went out for a packet of cigarettes...and never came back, very sad I’m sure, but at a later date, did anyone in the King family freak out if S. King mentioned ‘popping out to the shops for some fags’ just in case he went all ‘Daddy Donald’ on them? Exactly!..Why would they? In essence, to those it may concern, would you simply please drop the ‘by association’ and other such preconceptions and enjoy the author’s work in its own right, as a product of his individuality?...if not for the sake of Joe Hill, for the sake of all the poor sods reading this lengthy rant! Thus this Grumbling Gargoyle drops her case for the persecution!
Now for the really important stuff! This is one of the most chilling books I have ever read. The fear factor is extremely prevalent throughout. The terror doesn’t manifest itself in the form of gore or visceral carnage, for me a skilled writer doesn’t always need such gruesome embroidery to captivate an audience, Hill has you shivering and twitching and looking over your shoulder because the atmosphere he creates and cloaks you within is so palpably creepy!
There is a particular scene which, without giving any of the story away, still makes my flesh crawl to this very day...and given that it’s some time since I last read Heart-Shaped Box, for such emotional residue to remain within a reader...is an outstanding achievement for any author. I’m still not giving anything away when I tell you this...as you read of the razor dangling from the chain held between the corpsed fingers of the deceased, the description is so well written, so graphic, so mentally menacing that the reader is lost inside the moment, struck by a surrounding silence as the reader’s own heart races against the pendulous rhythm of the blade as it swings back and forth...slashing through sense and sanity!
Characters are well developed, believable and infused with memorable personalities. Such as with Judas Coyne whom, despite being a rising superstar, is a damaged and complex individual who exists in a very dark place where the spotlight of stardom is quickly swallowed by the shadows of his despair. Georgia, his girlfriend, plays a good part too as his resolute companion battling alongside him to stay alive and exorcise the vicious spirit intent upon their destruction. Oh and you’ll also meet two very important star players...Angus and Bon...Judas’s dogs...who are definitely worthy of more than a few doggy treats given the ordeals they are subjected to!
So there you have it...Heart-Shaped Box...prepare yourself for a hair raising, sleepless night...I for one have had to brush my chest hair down a few times and I’m only providing the review!
Definite 5 out of 5
The Grumbling Gargoyle
The Grumbling Gargoyle