Semi-retired, recluse rock-and-roll musician Judas Coyne loves the macabre. That’s why he couldn’t resist bidding in an online auction for a haunted suit. But things begin unravel when the suit arrives and turns out to be tied to the spirit of an old man. Suddenly Jude and his girlfriend are running south from a ghost that wants them dead, toward a part of Jude’s past that he desperately wants to forget.
The honest disclaimer is that I bought this book because I’m a pretty big fan of Stephen King and–since Joe Hill is his son–I figured that I might as well give it a go. Besides, I’ve read great reviews of NOS4A2 that I figured I’d give this book a shot since it was cheap.
The first one hundred pages or so were really difficult to get through. I found Jude to be less than sympathetic as a protagonist. He’s a 54 year old rock star with a girlfriend less than half his age and a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder. He seemed bitter about life without much more to his character. I felt the same way about his girlfriend at first, though she became sympathetic much sooner than he did.
Probably the biggest problem I had with the story was that it built to what seemed like the climax really early on in the novel. There is a major confrontation that seems like it should be the end, but it isn’t. I really couldn’t see the story continuing on beyond it. That may have been because I wasn’t crazy about Jude. However, it felt more like the climax of Act II rather than of Act I.
Eventually the story does get going as the back-story behind the ghost and Jude’s relationship to him is revealed. The ghost’s motivation was actually quite good. But I felt like parts of the story were a bit tired. They’d been done before, and I was hoping for something a bit more unique.
Overall, Heart-Shaped Box is a decent read. I think you have to be in the right mindset to really enjoy it. Or you have to enjoy older, crusty protagonists. There are good bones in it, so I will probably check out NOS4A2 in the future.
Rating: 2 of 5 stars