Gollancz, out now
Waking with a dreadful hangover, Ig Perrish discovers a pair of horns growing from the top of his head, which somehow makes people tell him their darkest secrets…
A very dark fantasy, Joe Hill’s second published novel grips the reader from the first brief chapter right through to the end, filled with believable, flawed characters, and moments of sheer unremitting horror.
The central mystery – what happened to Ig’s girlfriend Merrin a year earlier – is explained in a very non-linear form, with multiple perspectives given on events. Reading it is a little like watching Chris Nolan’s Memento for the first time: each new piece of background knowledge changes how you feel about Ig, sometimes drastically, and eventually helps create a very rounded character who is an anti-hero in his own life.
Rather than present an over the top grotesque villain, Hill gives us Lee Torneau, a petty, vindictive bastard who most people have met versions of over the years – the person who somehow wheedles their way into your life, even though they seem to be trying to do the opposite; the person who manages to misinterpret every situation to their advantage. The more we learn about the triangle of Lee, Ig and Merrin, (let alone the horrific insights into ordinary people that Ig gains whenever he comes into contact with them), the more that you realise that maybe the guy with the horns isn’t necessarily always the bad guy in a situation.
Verdict: A tale of revenge in almost Jacobean terms at times, this will stay with you long after you finish reading it. 8/10