'Buy my stepfather's ghost.' Judas Coyne is an aging death-metal rock star with an ever growing macabre collection. He seems to drift idly through life with little interest in anything, until now. His personal assistant finds a unique auction online and without pause Jude hands over $1000 for an old suit and becomes the new owner of a ghost. Shortly afterwards, a heart-shaped box arrives containing the suit and a little later, upon seeing the ghost for himself he knows that life will never be the same. What follows is a gripping tale that intertwines horror and fear with regret and love, written in a wickedly smooth style which will leave you unable to put the book down until you turn the last page.
The characters are beautifully written and it's not hard to become attached to them very early in the book. My favourite was definitely the ghost himself simply because I know it will take forever to get the image from my mind. I loved that he was/is a hypnotist and especially loved the imagery of his swinging a razor blade on the end of a golden chain to induce trance.
He glanced down at the ghost and at the same time the dead man lifted his head and his eyes rolled open. But where his eyes belonged was only a black scribble. It was as if a child had taken a Magic Marker--a truly magic marker, one that could draw right on the air--and had desperately tried to ink over them. The black lines squirmed and tangled among one another, worms tied into a knot.
The ghost came to his feet, and as he rose, his legs moved out of the sunlight and painted themselves back into being, the long black trouser legs, the sharp crease in his pants. The dead man held his right arm out to the side, the palm turned towards the floor, and something fell from the hand, a flat silver pendant, polished to a mirror brightness, attached to a foot of delicate gold chain. No, not a pendant but a curved blade of some kind. It was like a dollhouse version of the pendulum in that story by Edgar Allan Poe. The gold chain was connected to a ring around one of his fingers, a wedding ring, and the razor was what he had married. He allowed Jude to look at it for a moment and then twitched his wrist, a child doing a trick with a yo-yo, and the little curved razor leaped into his hand.
This is the first I had heard of this author and while Heart-Shaped Box is his first novel, it is his second book. His first is titled 20th Century Ghosts and I may just have to take a peek at that one in the near future as it won many awards. This is definitely an author to watch.
Author's website: http://www.joehillfiction.com/ (includes lots of fun things including a trailer for the book which you really must see. It's wickedly chilling.)
A little research on the internet showed that there should be a movie of this book in the works at some point, courtesy of Warner Bros.