I have a very strange physical reaction to wrongful accusations. They don't even have to be accusations against me. If I'm watching the telly or reading a book and someone is wrongfully accused, the pad of flesh right beneath the middle finger on my left hand hurts.
It's not a horrific pain, but it's a sort of burning, pulsating sensation. It throbs.
I still haven't been able to figure out why it happens. It just does.
Having said that, I hope you understand just how uncomfortable reading this book was for me. Immediately we meet Ignatius “Ig” Perrish – a good boy turned good-for-nothing after his girlfriend Merrin is raped and murdered. He's the number one suspect – everyone thinks he did it – but he's never been charged because of the lack of evidence. Spoiler alert: it wasn't him.
Which is why I spent the first few chapters wringing my hands. Poor Ig.
But there's something worse in store for the guy; he's turning into a stereotypical devil. Literally. I'm just shocked he never got the tail. He had the pitchfork, after all.
Horns is a bit of a departure from Hill's usual work. There's the signature mix of the macabre and the ridiculous, of course, but this time he becomes a bit more serious, playing with tropes and turning them on their heads. I'm not one for theological musings, but Hill manages to create a very interesting novel investigating the aftermath of violence and loss. At times I feel like Ig makes for a rather weak and silly devil, his conscience never entirely leaving him.
For someone unravelling a story so bleak, though, Hill's ending is quite optimistic.
More importantly, what's wrong with a bit of fun? Sin is fun, and as long as you're not bashing someone's brains in, indulging in a bit of sinful activity isn't entirely wrong.
(My high school pastors and Bible teachers would have a lot to say to that. It's the devil attempting to swindle us all through literature!)
Horns is not my favorite Joe Hill story. I think NOS4A2 is a lot stronger and more decisive. Still, Horns is a gripping if uncomfortable read. I had to write my thoughts down right after reading, which is something unheard of for someone as lazy as I am.
It's a compelling look at love and loss, and how falling from grace might just be the best thing ever.