>Horns by Joe Hill

>I pegged Joe Hill as one to watch after reading his wonderful Heart Shaped Box. Now I’ve read his latest novel, Horns, and the peg ain’t moving from the spot.

Horns defies categorisation – something I like in a book. Chances are you’ll find it shelved under Horror, but it is by turns a mystery, a romance and a supernatural thriller.

It kicks off a little like a Twilight Zone episode, with Iggy Perrish discovering he’s grown demon’s horns overnight. The horns give him certain insights into other people’s secret thoughts. The first part of the book presents a series of episodic encounters as Iggy meets – and discovers he can influence – various people he knows.

This first chunk of the novel is pure entertainment. The story is both comic and tragic. But then Hill delivers a real sucker punch as Iggy realises there are some secrets he’d rather not know.

It’s from here that the novel starts revealing its onion-skin layers, as Iggy sets out to uncover the truth about the night his girlfriend Merrin was raped and murdered. Hill throws us a bunch of time-shifts, mixes Twilight Zone with a healthy dose of John Irving, and ups the ante with a truly terrifying psychopathic villain.

Throughout, Hill’s real skill is in keeping our emotions firmly with Iggy, despite his gradual (is it real or not?) transformation into a full-blown demon. He even lets us into the psychopath’s head and darn it if we don’t get to understand him a little bit too.

Add in Hill’s perceptive, confident prose and an explosive climax and you get a package that’s really rather special. It’s a week or so since I finished reading Horns, and it’s still bubbling away in my head – always a sign of a class act. Despite the horns, Iggy Perrish is someone I’m not going to forget in a hurry.

Sympathy for the devil indeed.

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