Title: Jar of Hearts
Author: Jennifer Hillier
Published: July 25th 2018
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Crime, Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 4.5 stars
Aged just 16, Geo’s best friend Angela disappeared without a trace. Years later, Angela’s body is discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home, revealed as yet another victim of the notorious serial killer Calvin James. Geo’s high-school boyfriend.
For fourteen years, Geo knew what had happened and told no one, carrying the secret until she was arrested and sent to prison. Why would any woman protect a man capable of committing such a heinous crime? Geo had her reasons…
To Geo, Calvin is more than a monster, a serial killer with no remorse. He is something else entirely. And while Geo did her time, Calvin escaped and went on the run. Now released, Geo is ready to start over. But then the bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela…
As chilling secrets are revealed, everything turns on what really happened one fateful night, almost 20 years ago. Is it too late for anyone, Geo included, to survive the truth?
You need to brace yourself for this one, it is dark, disturbing and twisted. Jar of Hearts marks the fifth release by Jennifer Hillier. It encompasses a killer teen love affair, the disappearance of a popular cheerleader, a courtroom drama, a prison stint and a serial killer on the run.
It took no time at all for me to become fully immersed in Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier. I am going to use a common catchphrase used by readers and reviewers, this is the first book I have read by this author, but it won’t be my last. Jar of Hearts has a lot going for it. This novel offered great entertainment value. The pace was perfectly timed, the narrative full bodied, the characters complex and the twists well executed.
Jennifer Hillier wastes no time at all in thrusting her reader within the drama and twisted tale of events that define Jar of Hearts. The opening sequences of Jar of Hearts are completely enthralling, we are placed in the midst of a complex case, concerning the conviction of Georgina (Geo) for her involvement and cover up of the murder of her best friend in high school, Angela Wong, many years ago now. As Geo faces her sentence and the man who drove her to participate in such a depraved act, her high school love, Calvin James, we soon feel like a bystander in these events. It is revealed that Calvin is a now a serial killer, who has been labelled the Sweet Bay Strangler. I felt a strange sensation while reading about Calvin’s behaviour, I wanted to learn more about him, but at the same time I was repulsed by him.
I got the feeling from Geo, along with Calvin and some of the vital secondary characters, are kept at arm’s length by Hillier. I was genuinely interested in their backgrounds and character arcs, but I did want more from this side things. Kaiser, the cop who arrests Geo but was also her childhood friend, was well rendered. I did admire his loyalty and protection of Geo. I also liked one of the story threads involving Kaiser and an inappropriate relationship. Kaiser stood out as one of the highlights of Jar of Hearts.
I do have a liking for thrillers, particularly good quality crime based thrillers. Jar of Hearts represents one of the better novels I have read of this genre this year. It did keep me on my toes, but I did quite enjoy the fact that I guessed one of the main plot twists. It didn’t spoil my reading of this novel in any way. For those who are not overly taken with dark and disturbing thrillers, this one has a few sequences woven in that may need a trigger warning. Rape, violence and abuse feature. However, I will say this is not sensationalized and it clearly links to the direction of the novel.
One of the other side aspects of Jar of Hearts that worked really well for me personally was the jail sequences. Geo is jailed for being an accessory to Angela’s case. Once she is jail, there is an Orange is the New Black feel to the sequences. Jail is a place where Geo at first flounders, finds her feet and redeems herself. We see another side to Geo in these episodes of the book. I enjoyed these sequences very much.
Hillier cleverly unwinds her narrative via two perspectives, we hear from Geo and Kaiser. There is a switch back of time, which alternates between the present day and Geo’s high school past. We learn pertinent information about Geo’s background via these aspects of the narrative and I feel it forms the very backbone of the novel. Hillier outlines Geo’s loss of her mother at an early age, being brought up by her father, her need to be accepted by the in crowd at high school, her relationship with Angela and her fateful love affair with Calvin. This is fleshed out well by Hillier, which sends a sense of urgency and danger associated with Calvin’s escape from prison in the present day to the direction of the narrative.
Hillier builds up to her thrilling conclusion well. I was eagerly awaiting the final showdown and it delivered. Everything is settled in the end, there is a nice touch of hope, as well as a look to the future. I am not entirely sure everything worked out for the best for Geo though.
Jar of Hearts is a brace yourself style thriller, it is original and gripping. I am keen to explore new work and past novels by Jennifer Hillier. Thriller enthusiasts and crime fiction fans will appreciate this one.
Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier was published on 25th July 2018 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Jar of Hearts, Jennifer Hillier, visit here.
*I wish to thank Allen & Unwin for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.