Devil In A Blue Dress

Horns: A Novel
A review of Horns by Joe Hill

At one point in Joe Hill's thriller Horns, Ignatius Perrish - who had woke one foggy morning to find, in a satanic turn, horns sprouting from his skull - dons a discarded blue dress, carries a pitchfork, and lurks about the woods near his home preparing for vengeance; all this after he, his Gremlin, and all his clothes have gone up in smoke, so to speak, in an unfortunate non-accident perpetrated by an even more evil character than Ig has become.

If this all sounds a little Stephen King-ish, there is a good reason for that. Joe Hill is Stephen King's son. But before prejudging or pigeonholing Mr Hill, consider his pseudonym, which serves as a good indication of desired autonomy from his notable pedigree. Horror, though, is nothing new for Mr Hill. Besides living with the "Master of Horror" for the first half of his life, he's published one prior novel, Heart Shaped Box, and one book of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts; he's also had many of his stories anthologized in other publications. All have been generally well received.

In his latest tale, Joe Hill invokes all things devilish, when his protagonist inherits the headgear and all the powers of a demon, after a night of drunken pining for Merrin, his murdered childhood sweetheart. Ig simply can't remember what the heck he did the night before, but now, whenever he meets anyone, sporting his new horns, they feel the need to confess their wildest desires to him. As a bonus, if he touches them, he becomes privy to their most secret memories. But the best part is they don't seem to see the horns and forget everything they've said to him after he's gone. When he visits his brother, Terry, a famous Jazz trumpeter and talk show host, he learns, just who Merrin's killer really is. That's when Hill's story grows horns.

The author makes good use of a love triangle, complicated family ties, and hypocritical christian ethics to drive his plot along nicely. Some veering twists and turns make thing interesting, but quality writing is really the star of this tale of woe. Near the end, the pace increases to a frenzied pitch, engrossing the reader till the ultimate pay off. I would say the author lives up to his family name, but he's changed it; and, if the alternative is constantly being compared to your legendary father, maybe that's a good thing.

~Book Jones~ 3.5 stars