Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Review of Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier (Atlantic, 2018)

When she was sixteen years old, Georgina Shaw – known as Geo – dated Calvin James, five years her senior. After a drunken party, Geo’s best friend and leader of the school cheerleading team, Angela Wong, disappeared. Fourteen years later, Angela’s remains are found in woods near to Geo’s old home and she and Calvin are arrested. He for Angela’s murder and the deaths of three other women, Geo for aiding and abetting in the death of her friend. The arresting officer is Kaiser Brody, a close school friend who she subsequently shut out of her life. An executive in a pharmaceutical company and on the verge of marriage, Geo’s live is upended and she’s given a five year prison sentence. Not long after being sent to prison, Calvin escapes and disappears. As Geo nears release, a fresh set of new bodies start to be found. While Kaiser hunts for Calvin, Geo is prepared to take her chances and confront her past.

Jar of Hearts takes place near to Seattle and is a spin on the serial killer genre. The tale centres on Geo (Georgina) Shaw, who at the start of the tale is convicted of aiding and abetting in the death of her best friend, Angela Wong, by her then boyfriend, Calvin James, fourteen years previously. Calvin subsequently went on to murder three other women. Geo, an executive at a major pharmaceuticals company, is sent to prison for five years. The story then tracks both back to Geo’s school days and the time prior to and after Angela’s death, and forward through her time in prison to her release when her past and Calvin seem set to catch-up with her. As such, the focus is very much on Geo, a woman living with the consequences of fateful decisions taken when she was sixteen, when she met and fell in love with a serial killer. Hillier does a very nice job of developing Geo’s character and uncovering the layers and secrets of the events fourteen years previously and their after-effects and subsequent years. Indeed, the tale is well structured, with both the historical and contemporary threads leading towards climatic denouements with twists. The book ended a bit too quickly I felt and I’d have liked to get a bit more post-denouement conclusion, but nonetheless an engaging and compelling read.

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