Thursday, August 25, 2022

Book Review: Jar of Hearts

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's remains are discovered in the woods near Geo's childhood home. Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer of several women. But to Geo, he's something else entirely. Back in high school, he 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.

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier came out in June of 2018 on St. Martin's Press. It was awared the ITW Thriller Award - Best Novel 2019 and the Authors on the Air Network - Thriller of the Year 2018.

I selected this book for our monthly Mystery Book Club at our library branch. The story and language is a rougher than we normally choose; this is definitely a mature-audience, R-rated novel. The above description gave no hint of any of that. Hopefully that won't turn off too many folks. I'll find out in October.

The story itself, though, has some engaging elements that can quickly draw the reader in. Despite feeling very uncomfortable at times, the narrative moved. The twists and surprises were mostly plausible and fit. I could have done without the prison elements; those felt like padding or "research" that the author wanted to shoe-horn in. Another book about another character in prison might have been better. Here it just seemed gratuitous and unnecessary.

I found the narrative structure interesting - five parts with switching between Geo and Kai's points-of-view. I was intrigued that the narrative followed the five stages of grief. Lastly, I liked the whole symbolism behind the title and how the hearts played into the story throughout.

This might not have been the kind of book I normally would have read on my own, but I felt like parts of it were very solid. Those solid parts helped carry the weaker parts.

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