Fiction Reviews


Horns

(2010) Joe Hill, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, 437pp, ISBN 978-0-575-07916-8

(2013 new mass market pbk edition) Joe Hill, Gollancz, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0575-12069-3

 

Horns is the second of Joe Hillsí novels, his first being Heart Shaped Box which won the Bram Stoker Award for 'Best First Novel' for 2007 (presented in 2008) as well as the International Thriller Writers Inc award for Best First Novel. He has also won awards including the British Fantasy Award in 2006 for his collection of short fiction 20th Century Ghosts and the Bradbury Fellowship. These are names of a few awards for a writer that is going from strength to strength. He is also the author of comic book series Locke & Key (published by IDW Publishing from 2008).

The book is about a character called Ignatius Martin Perrish from the small town of Gideon, who is in turn the son of Derrick Perrish, a renowned musician and younger brother to Terry Perrish a rising late night TV star. Ignatius is a respected part of the community with his whole life in front of him. Until, that is, the brutal rape and murder of his girlfriend, and only love, Merrin Williams, and him becoming the number one suspect. Although acquitted of these crimes he still remains under suspicion.

The novel starts a year after the murder when Ignatius spends the night very drunk. When he wakes up in the morning a hangover is the least of his problems as he discovers that horns are growing out of his head. Even worse he suddenly has the gift to see the deep dark secrets and desires of all the people he meets with some very disturbing and humorous results.

Armed with this newfound gift Ignatius sets out to retrace his alcohol-fuelled night and in turn find Merrin Williams' real killer. Picking up an entourage of snakes and a box of Lucifer matches along the way, his journey takes him and the reader through the past and the present of his life as well as some of Gideon's town history. What is the significance of the Foundry, which acts as the main backdrop to the novel's setting, of the and a mysterious Tree House. In essence Horns is a journey of true love, friendship and betrayal, steeped in danger and magic.

This is a beautifully written novel. The style is very clear, uncomplicated and easy on the eye. Joe Hill really does not just bring all the characters to life, he develops them both personally and socially to the point that the reader can identify with them in real life (or know people like them). Especially the character of Ignatius Perrish, for whom the reader feels his anguish and sense of loss for Merrin. This generating reader empathy is one of the novel's many positive aspects. Other's include the storyline and overall plot which is strong and grips the reader from the very start. It also progresses, develops with the characters and keeps the reader on the edge as well as entertained. The plot itself is well-focused and does not waver, which is a difficult aspect to achieve within a long piece of writing: it is not a small book.

Horns is a an intelligently written novel because it works on so many different levels and crosses genre boundaries. On the one hand it works as a piece of horror and fantasy with the elements of magic and religion: on the other hand it is a crime suspense thriller describing the aftermath of a small town community shocked by horrendous crimes of rape and murder where the killer is still seen to be at large and a claustrophobic atmosphere is created. Ignatius Perrish plays the part of detective, wronged man and potential suspect. All the elements are cleverly tackled, with romance, the magic of love, music and childhood past at their centre.

Overall this novel will appeal to a wide range of readers from horror and fantasy to the avid CSI fans such as myself.

Nadia Mook

See also Ian's review of Horns.


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