Thursday, December 18, 2008

69. Heart-Shaped Box

by Joe Hill
read by Stephen Lang

I listened to this audiobook during my commute (30+ miles on a mostly two-lane state highway through the country and a couple very small towns, and often in the dark), and that might not have been such a good idea -- the creepiness added to my stress level! I can see why this audiobook won an Audie Award for 2008 Best Thriller! My only complaint with the reader, actor Stephen Lang, is that he makes all the women in the story sound the same.

The main character, aging rocker Judas “Jude” Coyne (aka Justin Cowzynski), has his assistant purchase online a dead man’s suit (in a heart-shaped box), and its accompanying ghost, as an addition to his personal museum of the macabre. Turns out the purchase was a set-up by Jessica Price, the sister of Jude’s former girlfriend Florida (aka Anna), who committed suicide shortly after they broke up. The ghost is that of Craddock McDermott, her stepfather, and he is out for retribution. Jude and anyone who helps him, including his current girlfriend Georgia (aka Marybeth), are the targets.

The combination of the ghosts and the mind control by Craddock was frightening, as was Georgia/Marybeth’s communication with Florida/Anna using an Ouija board. I love the way Jude’s dogs, Bon and Angus, were worked into the supernatural aspects of the story.

I thought both the characters grew, and that was an unexpected plus. Jude became a decent guy who took responsibility for his actions. I especially liked Georgia/Marybeth. Even though she was considerably younger than Jude, she had the ability to see who he really was and what he could be. She was tough but at the same time vulnerable. I liked her spunk. The characters were very vividly portrayed. I began to suspect early on the true nature of Craddock, but his final depravity was still a surprise. For a horror book, it had a quite pleasant ending, with all the ends neatly tied up.

Horror is not my genre of choice, but I might read some Joe Hill again. He made me feel the story could really happen. I've never read anything by his father, Stephen King, although I watched the scary It miniseries years ago (the one with Richard Thomas, John Ritter, and Tim Curry), as well as The Green Mile with Tom Hanks. Maybe I’ll listen to Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts, which won the 2008 Audie for Best Short Stories/Collection, next Halloween!


  1. I thought this was such a great book! I used to be a big Stephen King fan, but haven't read anything of his in years.

  2. Ack! I forgot to link to your review of this book, Somer! Here it is.