Audiobook Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (June 12, 2018)
Length: 10 hrs and 23 mins
Narrator: Jaunary LaVoy
I got way more than I bargained for in Jar of Hearts. Disturbing, dark, and twisted doesn’t even begin to describe some of the things in this book; to read it is to feel your insides turn cold or your heart tighten in your chest until it hurts. Because I started this one while I was on vacation, there were even moments where I just had to set this one aside, until I felt like I was in a better frame of mind to handle it. It’s a good book—a great psychological thriller, in fact—but probably not one to read if you want to keep yourself feeling carefree and happy. Just a warning.
Jar of Hearts is a story about a trio of best friends named Georgina “Geo” Shaw, Angela Wong, and Kaiser Brody. In high school, the three of them were virtually inseparable, until one night, following a wild party at their friend’s house, Angela mysteriously disappeared. Investigators followed multiple leads, but with no trace of the popular cheerleader to be found, the case eventually went cold.
But fourteen years later, the truth of what happened that night finally comes out. The remains of Angela Wong have been discovered, buried in the woods a stone’s throw away from her best friend Geo’s old house. Found with her dismembered skeleton is a camera, containing images captured from the night the victim was last seen, and the developed pictures show a dramatically different story than the one Geo painted for the police in her statement all those years ago.
As the novel opens, the past has finally caught up with Geo. Charged for murder along with her old boyfriend Calvin James—now known to the world as the notorious Sweetbay Strangler—she enters a plea bargain to testify against her former lover in return for lesser sentence. Nevertheless, her life as a top executive in one of Seattle’s biggest pharmaceutical companies is now in shambles. Still, for Kaiser Brody, who has spent the last fourteen years agonizing over Angela’s disappearance, Geo’s downfall brings him no joy. Currently a detective on the police force, Kai initially took Geo’s betrayal hard, but a part of him still cares deeply about his old friend, leading him to keep tabs on her as she serves out her sentence. Then, news breaks out that Calvin James has escaped from prison, and days before Geo is set to be released, bodies of young women start turning up near where Angela Wong was found, killed and disposed of in a similar manner. Fearing that Calvin is out for revenge and is targeting Geo next, Kai races against the clock to decipher the killer’s cryptic messages, determined to stop him before he can strike again.
Within these pages is an intensely twisted tale of murder, betrayal, and guilt. But fortunately, there is also a chance at redemption and possibly a brighter future for our characters. The story mainly follows Geo’s perspective, bringing us back and forth between the present and the past, using flashbacks effectively to reveal—little by little—the events that altered the course of the three friends’ lives. Both timelines offer their own unexpected and deeply riveting surprises, some of which will no doubt shock and disgust some readers. It’s no exaggeration when I say this is one of the darkest thrillers I’ve ever read—and I’ve read some pretty sick and disturbing stuff. But it’s not really about the violence or the graphic content when it comes to these books, though there’s plenty of that to be found here as well. The darkness I speak of is more abstract, the kind that makes you ponder the depths of the human heart and wonder at the manner of terrible secrets and lies it can harbor. Whether it’s jealousy between best friends or physical abuse in a relationship, it seems like every good thing is tainted with something negative in this story.
As a protagonist, Geo is a fascinating study. At first, it’s difficult to imagine ever sympathizing her. After all, while she might not have committed the actual murder, she did lie to everyone. She looked Angela’s parents in the eye and told them she didn’t know what happened to their daughter. She kept going on with her life as if nothing happened, FOR FOURTEEN YEARS. Like WTF? What kind of cold, heartless monster does that? How does she even sleep at night? But after a while, Geo reveals herself to be something of a master secret keeper. Doling out details about her life in bits and pieces, we find out that even though she has been the perpetrator of some vile acts of cruelty in the past, she has been the victim in plenty of them too. Still, nobody hates her more than she hates herself right now, and every day she lives with the knowledge that nothing will ever make up for her lies. Gradually, we discover that Geo is really not an evil person, so then the question remains: why did she do such an evil thing?
The best part of this story is finding out the answer. This book really got under my skin, in the best kind of way. It held me captive with an involving plot, deliciously dark atmosphere, and wonderfully flawed and complex characters. Jar of Hearts is my first novel by Jennifer Hillier, but it certainly won’t be the last, and I’m looking forward to trying out more of her work.
Audiobook Comments: It’s January LaVoy—enough said. Whether she’s doing YA or Star Wars, I always love listening to her narrate, but she’s especially in her element when it comes to mysteries and thrillers. Her performance in Jar of Hearts is a good example, immersing the listener completely in the creepy and suspenseful atmosphere, transporting you to a whole other world.