Book review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Wednesday, July 25, 2018 Permalink

On seeing the title of this book I immediately thought of the Christina Perri song (which I mainly knew from So You Think You Can Dance), and interestingly…. it’s referenced in this book (the song, not SYTYCD) in a pre-chapter quote.

Book review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer HillierJar of Hearts
by Jennifer Hillier
Published by Corvus
on July 26th 2018
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 1786495147, 9781786495143
Pages: 327

Georgina, known as Geo, is a 30-year-old rising executive when her world comes crashing down. Her high school boyfriend has been identified and arrested for a series of serial murders, including Angela, Geo's best friend in high school. Angela disappeared without a trace at 16 and her body has just been found. Now Geo is under arrest for helping her then-boyfriend cover it up. And it's one of her other close friends from high school, Kaiser Brody, who arrests her.

While Geo is sent to prison for her part, Calvin escapes from custody and is on the run. Geo, now thirty-five, is about to be released from prison to try and start over. But someone has started killing people and dumping their bodies in her old neighborhood, with some of the markers of the missing Sweetbay Strangler—her old boyfriend Calvin. Is these killings some kind of message from Calvin? Are they some of revenge? Is she herself now in danger?

Everything turns on what really happened that tragic night back when Geo and Angela were high schoolers. Everyone thinks they know the truth, but there are dark secrets buried deep within other secrets, and it may be too late for anyone to survive the truth.

The thing I found most difficult about this book was my inability to really engage with any of the characters. We’re in Georgina’s head (as well as Kaiser’s) and she’s contrite and there’s a sense of decency there, but I wasn’t sure I entirely got to know her as well as I would have liked.

Having said that, of course Hillier wants to keep us slightly distanced because it’s hinted there are secrets that Geo isn’t revealing.

Thankfully Hillier doesn’t draw her characters as black or white because even Calvin – god forbid – has some redeeming qualities, though he’s not what I was expecting.

We’re taken back in time, to Geo’s introduction to Calvin and given an essence of her childhood… her loving father but the vulnerability that comes with tiring of being the ‘good’ girl and usually playing second fiddle to her bestie Angela.

Hillier slowly unfolds the girls’ history and the weeks and days leading up to Angela’s disappearance / death.

I kinda guessed at the twist. We’re given a few hints so it didn’t come as a surprise but it was wrapped up pretty quickly and painlessly despite all of that. And I’m not sure Geo came out of that particularly well, which probably takes me back to the sense that I didn’t really connect with her and struggled to feel any sympathy, sadness or joy at the turns her life was taking.

I liked Detective Kaiser Brody – childhood friend, now cop. The complications of his affair and how it plays out adds some texture to his character as does his attitude towards the relationship.

This is an enjoyable read. It’s not too dark, but Hillier doesn’t shy away from Geo making deals in prison to ensure her safety and gives us some insight into the mind of someone like Geo…. who’s made mistakes and been given second chances – only to be confronted with those mistakes long after they could have been repaid.

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier will be published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and available from 26 July 2018.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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