Author: Jennifer Hillier
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Publication Date: June 12, 2018
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5 stars)
This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years …
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 Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.
To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin 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.
How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?
Whoever said lying was hard was so, so wrong. Lying was easy. Lying was like a hot knife slicing through room-temperature butter … Telling the truth, however, was impossible.
Jar of Hearts is a phenomenal suspense novel by Jennifer Hillier, the kind that has you wanting to draw out the story as long as possible, and yet you still find yourself unable to keep from tearing through the ending. It’s slow-burning, character-driven, and smartly organized. I loved every moment.
The characters steal the show from page one. Georgina Shaw made the worst mistake of her entire life when she was sixteen years old. A horrible, terrible mistake that ended with the death of her best friend, a mistake that she buries deep down and tries to forget … at least until everything comes crashing down fourteen years later. The storyline is partitioned into five parts: one for each of the five stages of grief. Geo’s layers get stripped away throughout them, revealing a complex, fierce, and flawed character. We see her in the past and the present, at her best and at her worst, and what’s most jarring is how it’s easy to see yourself making the same wrong decisions in her shoes because of how real she’s written.
In addition to Geo’s perspective, we get the perspective of the police officer who’d originally snapped the handcuffs on her wrists … and who just so happened to be Geo’s other best friend from childhood. His role in the narrative is largely to shed light on the current investigation, but I still found myself growing attached to him as he reconnects with Geo in the present and struggles with his own personal demons.
For me, Jar of Hearts is one of those novels that feels so character-driven it’s easy to overlook the carefully placed plot points. While there’s an obvious level of intrigue and thrill underlying the whole novel, I was lulled into a false sense of complacency with the pacing of the plot. The slow burn pays off, though. I loved how the last quarter of the novel picks up, and clues that had barely registered at the start of the novel quickly snap into place for a tense but fulfilling finale.
Jar of Hearts is an emotional roller coaster, and I couldn’t help but let out a long, satisfied exhale after turning the final page. If you’re looking for a character-driven, slow burn of a thriller, I can’t recommend Hillier’s Jar of Hearts highly enough.
In every story, there’s a hero and a villain. Sometimes one person can be both.
Warm thanks to St. Martin’s Press and Minotaur Books for providing me with an advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.