This review was originally published at Women Write About Comics.
Jude Coyne is an aging rock star who collects macabre trophies. When his assistant Danny finds a haunted suit for sale online, Jude purchases it without a second thought, hardly even remembering he bought it when it finally arrives in a large, black, heart-shaped box.
We soon learn that the suit is haunted by Craddock McDermott, a dowser and hypnotist by trade. It quickly becomes clear that he intends to kill Jude and anyone who tries to help him. When Jude tries to return the suit, he learns that Craddock is the step-father of one of his former groupies who committed suicide. Her sister, Jessica Price, conspired with their step-father after her death to curse the suit, and trick Jude into buying it, as retribution for “ruining Anna.”
When I first started reading, I didn’t think Heart-Shaped Box was all that scary. Disturbing, yes, but I didn’t feel the heart-pounding fear I was expecting. That’s because early in the book, it’s very easy to rationalize what’s happening, to see the clear cause and effect at work. Jude mistreats a mentally ill woman, her father seeks revenge. It’s a pretty simple formula. But as the assault continues and Craddock chases Jude and his girlfriend, Georgia, across multiple states, things start to unravel. Jude really isn’t as bad as Craddock and Jessica make him out to be, and as sympathy for him grows, so does the fear of Craddock. When it is revealed that Craddock’s intentions have very little to do with Anna and more to do with his own pride, he becomes a truly terrifying specter. I won’t give away too much, but when Hill reveals the truth about Craddock, Jessica, and Anna’s death, the true horror comes from the fact that there are just awful, evil people in the world, and no logic can rationalize their behavior.
I sought out this book because I wanted to be terrified, and it certainly did not disappoint.