5 star

Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

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?

This was one a friend suggested, and she was totally right about it! This is such an exciting thriller, and even though it is a tiny bit longer than the typical thriller I read, it really provided the experience I wanted, and so much more.

Jar of Hearts revolves around the protagonist, Georgina Shaw, who is a witness to the murder of her best friend Angela when she was 16. She alone knows the truth, and the book starts off with her testimony to put Calvin James in jail for the murder of Angela. Geo ends up in jail for a reduced sentence and the novel follows her journey before, during, and after prison, as well as flashbacks of the past she held so close to her heart for years. When more bodies start turning up, Kaiser, who was best friend with Georgina and Angela when they were young, is on the hunt for Calvin when the bodies turn up the same way Angela’s did. More and more of the truth comes out about the past as Geo continues to make her way through life as an ex-convict.

The story starts off with such an interest premise, where the murderer is kind of made clear from the very start and there is not really a mystery there. Yet it is still thrilling as Geo has to navigate her life from the top of a financially well-off company into prison for five years. The book is split into different sections and each is a slightly different time period as she enters jail, until she finally is set free. The characters are all very interesting (and somewhat mysterious) as more and more knowledge of the past comes forth through Geo’s perspective. This eventually sheds more and more light on the nature of everyone involved, leading up to the final climax.

The suspense was great in this book. Despite it being slightly longer, I was definitely hooked from the very first few pages, wanting to know how it all turns out in a book where the beginning starts off with a trial and a murder conviction. Also, it is clear that the whole truth didn’t come out at the trial, just enough to convict Calvin. It is this mystery that we slowly learn more and more about until the end where everyone’s perspective finally comes together to form the complete picture.

The gruesome things that happen in this book were also nothing short of horrifying, so that really added to the drama of it all. There was a surprising amount of romance-related material in the book too, not that it ever really got super explicit but the way it focuses on their relationships is noteworthy. I definitely didn’t see the ending coming, though towards the end when more information was made available I did see a couple of things ahead of time. That being said I still wondered how it would all go down even if I knew the gist of what would happen, which for me is good enough.

There were some scientific(ish?) things in the book that really threw me for a loop, as a science major. There was just a slightly implausibility with the way it was handled, but putting my degree aside, assuming I can take what was said at face value, it is fine. I almost considered lowering the rating just for that, but decided to be more forgiving with it and gave it the full five points. I really did enjoy the story and it did have some nice twists and turns that really added to the drama, and it kept my attention all the way to the very end. It had very good pacing and the information came out at a good rate, which is the sign of a well-paced book.

Overall Recommendations

Jar of Hearts is a story of the past coming back to haunt our protagonist, Georgina, when the body of her best friend is finally found and she is forced to take a plea bargain to convict her former boyfriend and go to jail herself for five years. For years Geo had kept the secret of what happened deep in her heart, but the truth slowly re-surfaces, as more bodies are found, killed in the same manner as her friend all those years ago. Just how long can Geo run from the past, and what will happen when it all comes bubbling up to the surface? Full of intrigue, suspense, plenty of twists and turns, and a dash of romance, if those things are your jam, this is the book for you!


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