Vic McQueen is really good at finding lost things. Good in that wow-that-shouldn’t-be-possible kind of way. It’s a power she has, and she’s not the only one with secret modes of psychic travel. Charlie Manx, an incredibly unsettling guy who kidnaps children, has this power, too. And he’s taken Vic’s son.
Incredibly positive reviews are the hardest. Figuring out why a book is bad is easy, but what makes a book really, really good? Let me count the ways, I guess.
For one, Vic is an engaging protagonist. She’s not always likeable. She can be selfish and hedonistic and the queen of bad choices. She’s damaged is ultimately the excuse, but by the time we reach the culmination of the plot (which is Wayne’s kidnapping), she’s in need of some redemption. And she gets it. But here’s the magical part: even in need of redemption, as a reader you will be interested in her and rooting for her and hopeful about her. And liking her. Joe Hill is the king of unlikeable heroes. Check out Heart-Shaped Box as well if you don’t believe me.
Point the second, the pacing here is lightning fast. So if you’re looking at the page count and wondering if you can handle a book of this size, rest assured it will only take you a couple of days to read this. I read it in three. That’s because Hill doesn’t fall into the kind of traps other authors would in handling a story of this scope. He doesn’t believe that every, single, minute detail in Vic’s life is worth mentioning. He understands that some things can be summed up effectively in a couple of pages, and then we get back to the plot at hand. He sets up what we need to know and moves forward rather than bringing the story to a grinding halt.
The last thing I want to cover about what makes this book so successful is its originality. It’s not a vampire story really, but it sort of is. It’s not about psychics really, but it sort of is. It’s scary, but it also has a magical quality that makes it sort of a fantasy. But then it’s also a thriller. And it manages to make Christmas sinister. Said all that to say, I’m left feeling the same way I did when I finished Heart-Shaped Box and Horns: I’ve never read a horror novel quite like this. And that’s assuredly a good thing.