21. Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill (2007)
You can’t blame Joseph Hillstrom King for using the shortened pen name Joe Hill—the son of Stephen King, he’s determined to earn respect and acclaim without any accusations of nepotism. With his 2007 debut novel Heart-Shaped Box, Uncle Stevie’s little boy proved that he’s not only inherited storytelling genes from his pops, but he’s also a much different kind of writer.
There’s a certain elegance to Hill’s writing, a sparseness that makes lean sentences read poetically. It’s a unique gift that lends Heart-Shaped Box’s supernatural plot tons of emotional resonance. We follow, and easily care for, washed-up rocker Jude Coyne as he orders a dead guy’s suit online, believing the ad’s promise that the owner’s ghost still resides in it, and fights for his life once the malevolent spirit shows the seller’s honesty and starts causing death.
One of the new millennium’s strongest horror fiction debuts, Heart-Shaped Box signaled in ’07 that a magnificent new voice had emerged, a truth that only heightened with the 2010 release of Hill’s follow-up, Horns. But more on that one later.