Synopses & Reviews
The New York Times
-bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box
returns with a relentless supernatural thriller that runs like Hell on wheels . . .
Merrin Williams is dead, slaughtered under inexplicable circumstances, leaving her beloved boyfriend Ignatius Perrish as the only suspect. On the first anniversary of Merrin's murder, Ig spends the night drunk and doing awful things. When he wakes the next morning he has a thunderous hangover . . . and horns growing from his temples. Ig possesses a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look -- a macabre gift he intends to use to find the monster who killed his lover. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. Now it's time for revenge . . .
It's time the devil had his due. . . .
"In bestseller Hill's compulsively readable supernatural thriller, his second after Heart-Shaped Box, dissolute Ignatius Perrish wakes up one morning to find a pair of satanic horns sprouting from his forehead. To the residents of Gideon, N.H., this grotesque disfigurement only confirms their suspicions that Ig raped and murdered his girlfriend, Merrin Williams, a crime for which he was held but soon released for lack of evidence. Ig is also now privy to the deepest, and often darkest, private thoughts of anyone he touches. Once Ig discovers through this uncanny sensitivity the true killer's identity, he schemes to reveal the culprit's guilt through natural means. Toggling between past and present, and incidents that range from the supernaturally surreal to the brutally realistic, Hill spins a story that's both morbidly amusing and emotionally resonant. The explanations for Ig's weird travails won't satisfy every reader, but few will dispute that Hill has negotiated the sophomore slump. 6-city author tour. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Hornsis a pitchfork-packing, prodigal son's take on religion...But the real meat of the story dissects man's relationship with good and evil wihtout sacrificing a bit of suspense...Hornsis a mesmerizing page-turner." San Francisco Chronicle
"On the strength of two masterly thrillers -- 2007's Heart Shaped-Box and his newest Horns -- Hill has emerged as one of America's finest horror writers." Charleston Post
"Fire and brimstone have rarely looked so good." Wilmington News Journal
"Hornsis a pitchfork-packing, prodigal son's take on religion...But the real meat of the story dissects man's relationship with good and evil wihtout sacrificing a bit of suspense...Hornsis a mesmerizing page-turner."
"No one working in horror today is more adept than Hill ...His writing is both merciless and compassionate, driving hard toward the painful truth in every story while holding fast to the desires of his protagonist." Bookreporter.com
"A tight and well-plotted murder mystery, as well as a thoughtful meditation on good and evil....Horns establishes Hill as one of the most clever and talented writers working in the genre." Seattle Times
"Horns should bring even more fans to Joe Hill . . . he has his own style, and it is very accessible as well as fast-moving. . . . Horns is a fast-paced, fascinating murder mystery/love story with a dash of the devil himself to spice things up." Providence Journal-Bulletin
"Hill's one incredibly talented writer with a wicked sense of humor and a master's control of pacing." Valdosta Daily Times
“Horns is a well wrought tale with intellectual merit. Not only are we entertained, we are challenged to think as well.” New York Journal of Books
“[HORNS is] a creepy murder mystery, a tragic love triangle, and a sweetly wistful coming-of-age story. Its the kind of book that has you laughing on one page, crying on another and making sure the doors and windows are safely locked on a third.” Miami Herald
“Brilliant in conception...HORNS is a rollercoaster of a work filled with thrills and chills.” Bookreporter.com
“Horns is dark, twisted, even sometimes funny in a macabre way.” Connie Ogle, "Between the Covers," < i=""> The Miami Herald <>
“A satisfying and entertaining book.” www.npr.org on HORNS
“[D]evilishly good…Hill is a terrificwriter with a greatimagination. He has a special talent for taking us and his characters to very weird places.” Wilmington News Journal
“Hills survey of the question of suffering is a wild ride, as filled with thrills as his heros headlong plunge down to a dark and dazzling river.” Seattle Times
“A devilish, ingeniously designed story that positions Hill in the same realm as Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Lethem, and Stephen King.” Pittsburgh Tribune
“Fast-paced, well-made, and wonderfully weird.” The Globe and Mail
“Horns is thoroughly enjoyable and often original.…a richly nuanced story. Fire and brimstone have rarely looked this good. ” Los Angeles Times
“[Horns is] devilishly good. . . . Hill is a terrific writer with a great imagination. He has a special talent for taking us and his characters to very weird places.” USA Today
“The wise guys point out that the literature of horror fantasy tends to be both romantic and conservative. Normalcy is idealized and so precious that its violation is the essence of horror. Joe Hills sweet, fanged demonology takes us there.” Oregonian
“This is masterful allegory as Hill proves himself…to be a compelling chronicler of human natures continual war between good and evil.” Providence Journal-Bulletin
“[A] fresh, tough-minded take on what it means to make a deal with the devil and your own worst nature.” San Francisco Chronicle
“Horns is not only scary but its also insightful, often funny and sometimes sweetl romantic.” St. Paul Pioneer Press
“As the plot builds through flashbacks and clever exposition, Igs true nature reveals itself, and the reader is left questioning the traditional border between good and evil....Highly recommended, particularly for fans of Clive Barker and Christopher Moore.” Library Journal
“”Darkly comic in places, touching in others, chilling on occassion…” Valdosta Daily Times
“[A] compulsively readable supernatural thriller...Hill spins a story thats both morbidly amusing and emotionally resonant. The explanations for Igs weird travails wont satisfy every reader, but few will dispute that Hill has negotiated the sophomore slump.” Publishers Weekly
“Fire and brimstone have rarely looked so good.” Orlando Sentinel
"A subtler take on the high-tension ghost story."
"The Diviner's Tale is vividly imagined and carefully plotted...an ambitious book, an attempt to explore the heart's mysteries by means of stories and images of the rolling profusion of language."
—New York Times Book Review
"Morrow quietly drops clues as he guides you deeper into the mystery of the dead girl -- and into Cass's own mind."
—New York Times
"With The Diviner's Tale, Morrow demonstrates...that one need not sacrifice literary chops for more commercial leanings when the two are easily and readily combined."
—Sarah Weinman for The Los Angeles Times
A "solid gothic-infused tale of family secrets. ... Morrow (Ariel's Crossing) beautifully evokes Cassandra's inner turmoil..."
"A committed dowser but reluctant psychic is the winsome protagonist of this sixth novel from Morrow (Ariels Crossing, 2002, etc.), which occupies a middle ground between domestic realism and Gothic suspense...Morrow does a fine job portraying a family whose love transcends sharply conflicting worldviews..."
"In his sublime new novel The Diviners Tale, Bradford Morrow accomplishes the deep, subtle miracle I have been waiting and waiting for someone to effect—he gives us the first novel-length work of fiction that actually does create a seamless breathing breathtaking unity of the literary and the suspense novel. This novel detonates the very notion of genre. And it works because it is riveting, insightful, sentence by sentence charged with feeling, as it bears us helpless with it on its downward journey to illumination."
—Peter Straub, author of Ghost Story and A Dark Matter
"Bradford Morrow, like the diviner-heroine of The Diviners Tale, is a mesmerizing storyteller who casts an irresistible spell. He has constructed an ingeniously plotted mystery that is at the same time a love story—luminous and magical, fraught with suspense, beautifully and subtly rendered—a feat of prose divination."
—Joyce Carol Oates, author of A Fair Maiden
"Bradford Morrow is a force of nature. I have already publicly used the word ‘masterpiece about one of his books, Trinity Fields. It is a measure of this writer that I must invoke the word again, and about a novel that not only contains pitch-perfect, surpassingly beautiful line-to-line writing but that finds in fictional genre forms both narrative excitement and profound human insight fully as successfully as Dostoevsky did with murder mysteries and Melville did with sea adventures. The Diviners Tale will not only delight, it will endure."
—Robert Olen Butler, author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain and Hell
"An astonishing dark gem of a novel, The Diviner's Tale is a gorgeously written, deeply unsettling thriller that kept me reading long past my bedtime for three nights in a row. I don't regret a moment of it, and neither will you; I loved this book."
—Elizabeth Hand, author of Generation Loss and Ilyria
"Superb. The only thing I did for two straight days was read this book—it really is that riveting. It reminded me of the greatest Hitchcock films that were somehow alchemically able to combine suspense, wonder, and romance all in one seamless story that kept you guessing and gasping right up until the end. A long time fan of Morrows work, I can honestly say this is the best hes ever done."
—Jonathan Carroll, author of The Wooden Sea and The Ghost in Love
"Bradford Morrows The Diviners Tale packs a mighty emotional wallop. This haunting portrayal of a woman possessed by irresistible visions which draw her through mystery and terror to cataclysmic self-discovery is both chilling and impossible to put down. Morrow is at the top of his form: bold, original, and mesmerizing. Truly a stunning achievement."
—Valerie Martin, author of The Confessions of Edward Day
"Bradford Morrow's beautifully written and tautly paced novel brings the old and all but forgotten gift of divination into the modern world. With the aptly named but thoroughly contemporary Cassandra as the book's flawlessly rendered voice, Morrow has created a woman both heroic in what she seeks and human in what she finds. The Diviner's Tale is about past crimes and future consequences, a tale whose subtle and mysterious confluences are as elusive as water underground."
—Thomas H. Cook, author of The Last Talk with Lola Faye
"The Diviners Tale is Morrow's most ambitious novel yet. He deftly wicks the literary and the paranormal into a single strand, making us wonder why we ever thought of the two as separate, and then uses this thread to weave a perfectly articulated mystery. The result is a sly masterpiece by a truly marvelous stylist that will cause you to question what you thought you knew about both genre and literature. Triply satisfying, The Diviner's Tale is a virtuoso performance."
—Brian Evenson, author of The Open Curtain and Fugue State
"The Diviner's Tale is chilling and unexpectedly powerful... Morrow writes extraordinay literary thrillers, giving us beautiful language while telling an old-fashioned, nail-biting story."
Joe Hill's critically acclaimed, New York Times-bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning debut chiller, Heart-Shaped Box, heralded the arrival of new royalty onto the dark fantasy scene. With Horns, he polishes his well-deserved crown. A twisted, terrifying new novel of psychological and supernatural suspense, Horns is a devilishly original triumph for the Ray Bradbury Fellowship recipient whose story collection, 20th Century Ghosts, was also honored with a Bram Stoker Award and whose emotionally powerful and macabre work has been praised by the New York Times as, "wild, mesmerizing, perversely witty...a Valentine from hell."
In rural upstate New York, a disturbing vision of a hanged girl leads diviner Cassandra Brooks and her family into peril, and conjures ghosts from her own haunted childhood. At once a journey of self-discovery and an unorthodox murder mystery, this is a tale of the fantastic and a family chronicle told by an extraordinary woman.
"[A] splendidly written mystery . . . a compelling story.
About the Author
Joe Hill is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Horns and Heart-Shaped Box and the prizewinning story collection 20th Century Ghosts. He is also the Eisner award-winning writer of an ongoing comic book series, Locke & Key. His new novel, NOS4A2, will be published in May 2013. You can follow Joe on Twitter, where he goes by the inspired handle of @joe_hill.
Ignatius Perrish is a devil, but he's also the hero of Horns
. Was it difficult to write a hero who pushes an old lady down a hill in a wheelchair — and make it so the reader could empathize with what Iggy did?
A: Now that you mention it, I guess shoving an old lady in a wheelchair down a hill and into a fence isn't really the sort of behavior that screams "hero." But at least she walks away. Some of the other people who cross Ig don't.
For some probably aberrant reason, I like to build stories around characters who at first seem unsympathetic, and then see if I can't lure the reader into loving them anyway. And it's hard to find anyone more unsympathetic than the devil. He's who we blame for everything bad in the world: wars, disease, cell phones, talk radio. So I thought, okay, he'd be a challenge.
Q: Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, "Talk of the devil, and his horns appear." Had you ever heard that? Is the statement apt in light of Ig's experiences in Horns?
A: The story is really about a guy who has spent his whole life trying to do the right thing, trying to be one of the good guys, praying for the best and coloring in the lines. And then one day everything that matters to him is torn away from him. He loses the person he loves most in the world; he loses his friends; the trust of his family; he loses his reputation, his place in the small town of Gideon, New Hampshire; his whole sense of purpose and self. He's demonized by everyone who knows him, by his whole community, for a sex-murder that he didn't commit. So yeah, in a sense, the village of Gideon talks of the devil, and then his horns appear. More to the point, though, Ig comes to feel that all his work to be good was a waste of his energy. He doesn't want to suffer like a saint anymore. He's had a taste of hell, and now he wants to share. He's ready to be a devil even before he sprouts horns.
Q: Music plays a significant role throughout Horns. Not only are Ig's brother and father talented musicians, but Ig himself has a passion and love for listening to music. As well, it should be noted, Jude Coyne, the hero of your previous novel, Heart-Shaped Box, was a rock musician. How does music influence your writing?
A: It used to be that I couldn't work without it, although in the last few years I've found I have to turn it off when I'm writing dialogue, so I can properly hear the voices in my head. (By the way, the most beautiful thing about being a writer is that I can admit I hear imaginary voices, and people smile at how creative I am, instead of giving each other frightened looks and calling the men in white suits... which would probably be the more reasonable response.)
The first part of Horns is basically a blues: Ig went to the doctor, he went to the priest, he went to his mama, but he couldn't get any peace. Another part of the book is about the inner life of a small-town sociopath, and was supposed to play like one of the cuts off of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. I've always looked to music to help me nail the proper emotional content of a scene. Or maybe it's more right to say that some emotions are radioactive, and the right song can give me a pair of tongs to pick them up and look them over.
Every story I've ever written collected a certain set of songs around them. I'll listen to them over and over until the story is done, and then sometimes I'll never listen to them again; or at the very least I'll retire them for a while. I was listening to a lot of KISS while I worked on Horns. I didn't think about why. It just felt right. But at some point it came to me that KISS is defined by a harmless, comic-book loving Jewish boy from New York who put on greasepaint and black leather and reinvented himself as a rock-and-roll devil. So maybe that's why I listened to "Heaven's on Fire" about eight-thousand times while writing Horns.
Q: Writers often base fictional characters on real people in their lives. Did you have a real-life inspiration for the character in Horns? Is there one character in the book to whom you relate more than the others? Why?
A: Every novelist draws on his or her personal history for material, and you're stuck inside the hermetically sealed capsule of your own head. No one else's perceptions are entirely available to you. But I tend to use characters to try and explore beliefs I may not have myself, and to feel emotions I maybe don't often feel. For example, Heart-Shaped Box was about an angry rock star with a crippling case of survivor's guilt. The closest I've ever been to a rock star was the mosh pit at a Pearl Jam concert. When I create a character, it's not thinly veiled reportage or memoir; it's invention.
That said, the true villain of Horns is a smooth-tongued sociopath, and I built his life story and his impulses around a set of characteristics criminologists refer to as the MacDonald Triad. Basically the triad is bedwetting, viciousness to animals, and a compulsion to want to set fires or blow things up. I learned about them while reading about Dennis Rader, the Bind-Torture-Kill serial murderer, and right away I felt like these traits also had to figure into my bad guy's psychology. So there's one place where the story was informed by real life.
Q: One of Ig's special "talents" in the book is that he is able to know other people's deepest secrets. Which of these secret truths was the most fun to write? Was there a truth that was shocking to you as the author?
A: Ig has all the powers of the devil, and that means he always knows people's ugliest secrets and dirtiest temptations. One of the great challenges of the book was to make all those secrets fresh and interesting, which wasn't always easy. There are just so few interesting ways to sin. There's only seven on the list of mortal no-no's — that's a pretty short list.
I don't know that any one of them stood out as being particularly fun to write. But as I went along through the book, I began to feel people were humanized by their failings, their self-made disasters. Some of them anyway. I think most people are basically good, and sin most grievously against themselves.
I can't answer the second question without dropping an enormous spoiler. I'll just say that there was one hidden truth that very much took me by surprise. It concerns someone close to Ig, and comes at the end of Part One, and I had no idea that this character had such a terrible secret to confess until the moment he coughed it up. For a writer, those are the kinds of moments you live for, and which only come a few times in the course of a story… when a character does something absolutely true and yet absolutely unexpected and unplanned.
Q: The "Tree House of the Mind" is an elusive and magical place that could represent many different things to different people. Where did the idea of the Tree House of the Mind come from? What does it mean to you?
A: Every important scene in the book happens twice. The first time to explore innocence; the second time to examine experience. Ig visits the Tree House of the Mind twice, a place of enormous power, where if you ask you will receive. Just be careful what you ask for. The first time he arrives at the tree, he's the best he will ever be, young and in love. And to me, that first scene in the Tree House of the Mind is that moment everyone has, or imagines they had, when they can look back and feel like they were still clean and full of promise. It's a moment of genuine peace, the last moment, before grown-up life comes surging in and you begin to compromise and screw up and lie to yourself. No one gets to stay in the Garden of Eden forever. Sooner or later the seraphim kicks your ass out and deadbolts the gate behind you.
As for where I got the idea for the Tree House of the Mind, I kind of lifted it from Genesis. It's the Tree of Good and Evil. I can't tell you how it wound up in Gideon, New Hampshire, however. I'm a novelist, not a horticulturalist.
Q: What do you hope that readers will take away from Horns?
A: There's an old 19th-century American woodcut of the devil that I had on my computer the whole time I was working on Horns — he's dancing on his little goaty hooves, with his head thrown back in laughter. At some point about midway through the first draft, it finally hit me that he's laughing at us for pointing the finger at him... for trying to put the blame on him for the trouble we made. The devil is a cop out. We're bad enough without him.