Summary (courtesy of Goodreads): Charlie Manx burned a man to death in his black 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith, but that’s not the worst of it. Rumor has it that he kidnapped dozens of children, taking them to a place he calls “Christmasland.” The only child ever to escape was a very lucky girl named Victoria McQueen.
Vic has a gift – she can ride her bike through the Shorter Way bridge and she’ll come out the other side wherever she needs to be, even if it’s hundreds of miles away. Vic doesn’t tell anyone about her ability; no one would understand.
When Charlie Manx finally dies after years in prison, his body disappears...after the autopsy. The police and media think someone stole it, but Vic knows the truth: Charlie Manx is on the road again...and he has her kid. And this time, Vic McQueen’s going after him.
And here's what I thought: I have read other books by Joe Hill, but this was the one that I think I enjoyed the most. It had the perfect mix of scary-ness, compelling characters, and a steady (or was it relentless?) pace that had me turning the pages .... and staying up way past my bedtime. And, in fact, it had enough scary-ness that one time, when I woke up in the middle of the night, I had a hard time getting back to sleep because I started thinking about the book. Did I mind? NO!! That's the sign of a really good book!!
I thought Hill did something really interesting by taking a beloved holiday and turning it into something sinister. Not only is there "Christmasland," which, by the way, is nothing nice at all (and of course, the first time I saw the word, I was thinking all about Nightmare Before Christmas' version). He gives us The Gasmask Man, who uses gingerbread-scented gas to knock people out. After a short while, Christmas takes on a pretty unpleasant feel.
Here is one spoiler, but I don't think it's a huge one: Joe Hill is the son of author Stephen King. The reason I'm mentioning this is because I think that in this book, Joe Hill gave me a lot of what I have enjoyed in some of Stephen King's later books, like The Stand, and Insomnia. Hill gives us an average-appearing person who seems to have a gift ... but the gift is really more of a curse. Vic's ability to have the Shorter Way bridge appear comes in handy when she's looking for something, but there's a terrible price to pay for using this ability. She does meet other people who have gifts, such as a librarian who uses Scrabble tiles to see into the future ---- and this character, in particular, was very well-written. When Vic first meets her, this young woman really seems to have a spark to her, but later in life, when Vic meets her again, it's clear that her gift of using Scrabble tiles has also become a burden and a kind of curse.
The interaction between the characters was something else that really struck me. I thought Hill did a wonderful job of writing everyday kinds of people, as well as the really frightening ones. Vic's parents seem realistic, for example. The way that they speak to each other, and relate to each other, is completely realistic. I think that's why it's so horrible when Vic meets up with nasty Charlie Manx again --- because he's kind of realistic, too, in a completely frightening way.
If you want to read another review of this book, which I think is particularly well-written, check out the one by Will Byrnes on Goodreads.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and anticipate a re-read at some point in the future. Well done, Mr. Hill!
This book goes towards fulfilling my commitment to the Chunkster Challenge (yay!). Weighing in at 689 pages, it will go towards my set goal of Do These Books Make My Butt Look Big? which is a goal of 6 Chunksters.