By Joe Hill
Published by Gollancz
Readily available in paperback and Kindle
RRP £7.99 in Paperback / £4.99 Kindle
Ignatius Parrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. Next morning he woke with a hell of a hangover, and horns growing from his temples. Once Ig had a blessed life, a life of privilege. The second son of a well know musician, brother to a rising late-night chat show host, he has wealth, security, status; and the love of the girl of his dream Merrin Williams.
Then Merrin was gone, ripped from his life, brutally raped and murdered, but worse Ig was the Police’s prime suspect. Although never tried for the crime he was convicted by the court of public opinion. He was whispered about, shunned, ignored. Everything he had taken from him.
Now he had the horns, and with them a terrible power to look into people’s darkest secrets and lay them bare. With a touch he knows what they know, with a suggestion he can steer them to do as he wishes. Ig sets out on a quest to find who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best never got him anywhere, now it’s time for payback, time the Devil got his due.
This is the second novel by Joe Hill, and like Heart-Shaped Box has left me thinking why I’m so late in reading his work. The way this story unfolds may seem daunting to some, it is told in a non-linear fashion jumping around in time looking at events in the present as well as before and during the core of the story; the rape and murder of Merrin Williams.
Throughout the story you are given an insight into the main characters, either through the parts told during Ig & Merrin’s first meeting and after, or through the power of the horns enabling Ig to see into people minds. In this way you get the back-story to the couple, and their friends, as well as different POV’s of the lead up, and eventual crime, inflicted on Merrin. Through the power of the horns Ig unravels the events of the night Merrin died. Ig’s own memories of that night are vague – due to him passing out blind drunk – meaning there is some lingering doubt throughout for the reader if he is actually the killer.
As much as telling the story of Merrin’s death and the aftermath, the book also looks at how the character of the Devil is perceived. Ideas are put forward that in some ways the Devil is an anti-hero, not the embodiment of total evil. Another is that God and the Devil are on the same side, both out to punish sinners. To some these ideas may not sit well, I suppose it depends on your faith, as an atheist I find them interesting and do fall in camp of the Devil getting a bad – and one sided – press.
Joe has taken great care to create a believable and sustainable world. Much like his first book he has taken pains to make the settings and characters comfortable to be around. He has also laid seeds for a shared universe with the name check for a character from Heart-Shaped Box; Judas Coyne.
Horns is a story about the devil inside all of us, and what happens when we let them have free reign.