REVIEW: Jar of Hearts, by Jennifer Hillier
Published by Atlantic Books 2018.
This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .
When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.
But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.
To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.
For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.
While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.
How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?
I really hoped to enjoy Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier, as I came across it whilst searching for novels with a female criminal protagonist or prominent character. The premise was awesome and the reviews were rave, but I just couldn't enjoy it.
For me, there was a huge disconnect between the sixteen year old Geo, foolishly in love and under the thumb of a sociopathic older boyfriend (a Geo I could sort of understand) and the present day thirty something year old Geo, in prison for lying about the whereabouts of her best friend's body for fourteen years.
I get the stupid, young Geo, but who is the current Geo? She's introspective but clinical in her thinking, and I find it disconcertingly cold that she's built a hugely successful life without a shred of remorse for her crime or compassion for Angela's parents, who have spent years not knowing where their daughter is. I don't empathise with or care about Geo, despite her multiple sexual assaults and relationship with an older woman dying of cancer (both I assume were devices to make us care - if not the rape trope was gratuitous and unnecessary). I also find her treatment of Kaiser manipulative and unfair, her sudden interest in him more for her own gratification than based on any true emotions.
I didn't enjoy the plot twist, which clunkily tried to embed itself in questions of nature vs nurture, but ended up being a little far-fetched and more for shock value than creative plotting. However, I did enjoy this nature vs nurture theme that ran throughout the novel, though I'd like to have seen more of it applied to Geo, who almost seemed the most dangerous and inhumane of them all (though I don't think she was meant to be seen this way ... not sure.) I couldn't wrap my head around the fact the characters were so young, and found the writing style seemed to match this teenage element.
Saying this, I read Jar of Hearts in one afternoon, really appreciating its holiday-easy-reading-thriller vibe, and I'll look out for more of Jennifer Hillier's work.
Available to buy on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.
About the Author
Jennifer Hillier was born and raised in Canada, but spent eight years living in the Seattle area of the United States, which is where all her books are set. Now back in Canada permanently, she lives with her husband and son just outside Toronto. She is the author of four previous thrillers, including Creep.