Joe Hill is the real deal. Even if he weren’t Stephen King’s son, I think he’d have quickly landed an agent and found himself a bestselling author. Heart-Shaped Box, his first full length novel, deals with aging rocker Judas Coyne. Jude is a relic of the past, an aging rocker who finds himself hitless, living in the woods off his earlier spoils. His bandmates have died from living the life, and he works his way through one sad groupie after another. He doesn’t even try to remember their names, rather referring to them by the state they’re from.
Jude also collects macabre items, haunted things, so when his assistant shows him an auction one day for a “haunted suit”, he can’t pass up the opportunity to check it out. The suit supposedly harbors the ghost of an old man, and the original owner just wants it out of her house so her child will feel safer. Strange dreams and visions begin to haunt Jude after the suit arrives. He sees an old man, dangling a razor from a chain, wearing that same suit. The man’s eves are obscured by dark scribbles. Things quickly turn darker for Jude, as the ghost begins to affect his live-in groupie and his assistant.
When Jude learns the true origins of the suit, he realizes how much trouble he’s in. Without spoiling too much, the suit is a paranormal Trojan Horse of sorts, allowing a vengeful spirit from Jude’s past access to his home. And since Jude bought and paid for the suit, it’s his until the bitter end. He must embark on a journey across the country and into his own past to confront the ghost and save himself.
Hill has the same gift for natural, laid-back prose as his father, and his stories are just as gripping and tightly-paced.