People and critics loved Jennifer Hillier’s “Jar of Hearts” and even though it’s a psychological thriller—a genre that I am not particularly fond of—I thought I’d give it a read. The reviews have been that good. Hillier’s writing talent far exceeds what I’ve found in the genre, but I still had problems with the big twist at the end.
This review contains spoilers, spoilers of a “Luke, I am your father” kind. Do not proceed further unless you want the book ruined for you.
“Jar of Hearts” opens with the psy-thrill childhood friends trope. Angela Wong, a popular 16-year-old girl, goes missing. Calvin James, the older boyfriend of Angela’s best friend Georgina “Geo” Shaw, killed Angela and Geo helped bury her. Fourteen years later, Angela’s dismembered boy is found behind Geo’s childhood home. Both Geo and Calvin are arrested by the former friend of both Angela and Geo, Kaiser Brody. Calvin is discovered as the Sweetbay Strangler, a serial killer with only a few known victims. Calvin immediately escapes prison and is on the lamb, but Geo serves her time.
And all of can be found in the description of the book at Amazon. You haven’t reached the spoilers yet.
I surprised myself with my suspension of belief with Hillier’s use of the childhood friend trope, but I could do so because Hillier’s writing was so damn good and she can weave a great yarn.
The book is told in the first-person by Geo and opens with her trial where she admits to the burying of her friend’s body. In the courtroom, Calvin passed a note to Geo unseen by everyone except Kaiser. Once again, I was able to suspend my belief, because, damn it, Hillier’s quite good at this.
Last spoiler warning. Seriously, go away now.
We go through 80% of the book with Calvin still on the prowl, two pairs of bodies of a mother and child are found near Geo’s childhood home and her high school. All signs point to Calvin and Kaiser actively investigates. And then after twenty-eight chapters of Geo bearing her soul, Chapter 29 begins with 16-year-old Geo discovering she’s pregnant after being raped by her boyfriend Calvin. She will eventually give the baby up for adoption.
I know it’s a writer’s job to manipulate what the reader witnesses, but the unnatural withholding of information via the unreliable narrator just to have that grandiose plot twist, I find is as lazy as it is annoying. We soon discover that Calvin is not responsible for the bodies near Geo’s home, but we also never find out what Calvin has been doing over the many years while on the run.
I was close to actually enjoying Hillier’s well-written psychological thriller but at the last minute, a fabricated twist is thrown at me which ruined “Jar of Hearts”.