Book review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Jar of Hearts
Jennifer Hillier

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Geo Shaw, Angela Wong and Kaiser Brody are inseparable high school friends until Calvin James approaches them at the 7-Eleven near school. Calvin is older and a little bit dangerous and what’s better is that he’s chosen Geo over Angela. Tired of playing second to her friend, she’s not about to let him go. Meanwhile, all Kaiser can do is watch as the girl he loves falls for the wrong guy.

But Calvin is more than a little bit dangerous. He’s controlling and abusive and Geo falls blindly into the dynamic. And when Angela confronts her friend, Geo denies the abuse. After a drunken high school party, Geo tries to keep everyone friendly, but Calvin’s darker side emerges. And the next morning, Angela goes missing. Calvin and Geo keep quiet because they know the terrible truth about what happened. Calvin quickly disappears. Geo goes to college, gets and MBA and redefines herself as a corporate executive. Fourteen years later, she’s a vice president at Shipp Pharmaceuticals and engaged to the CEO.

Then Angela’s remains are uncovered. Detective Kaiser Brody links Calvin and Geo to Angela’s death and breaks the Sweetbay Strangler case wide open, identifying Calvin as the serial killer who has terrorized Seattle. Calvin is sentenced to life in prison and Geo gets five years for her role in Angela’s death. Kaiser’s feelings for Geo are just as strong and he’s determined to keep an eye on her while she’s in prison, especially after Calvin slips Geo a mysterious note in the courtroom.

The rest of the story covers Geo’s prison term, the time after her release and character backstories. In addition, readers learn important details about the night Angela died. A wild and surprising conclusion explains why Geo and Calvin acted the way they did.

Jar of Hearts really grew on me after I finished reading it and especially after my mystery book club Zoom yesterday. Afterwards, I started to think more about the characters and their motivations. Geo, Calvin and Kaiser all crave love and this story is about their quests to obtain it. I like how they all have that in common to different degrees, but you may be shocked when you learn more about them. In addition, Geo and Calvin are survivors and will do whatever it takes. Kaiser is willing to overlook Geo’s past if it gives him a chance with her. And a surprise character makes the relationships even more complicated, giving readers a lot to think about.

Jar of Hearts was published in 2018 and won the 2019 International Thriller Writers Award for Best Hardcover Novel. The title refers to Christina Peri’s debut single of the same name in 2010. In it, Peri sings angrily about a love interest who wants to get back together. You can watch the video here.

I recommend Jar of Hearts to readers who like psychological thrillers and suspense novels.

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20 thoughts on “Book review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

  1. The cover grabs me even though I’m not into thrillers – usually. I like how your book club helped you dig deeper into the meat of the book, motivations and all!

    1. Hi Jill – oh I prefer to think of these situations as fiction. I know you get a taste of the harsh reality in your job. I am cozy under a blanket right now. We got about 8 inches – it’s pretty! Thank you for reading and comment 🙂

  2. I’m so glad to hear you liked this! This was one of my favorite books the year it came out. I remember loving it, but I actually don’t remember a lot of details. I think I need a re-read! Great review!

    1. Hi Stephanie – what’s weird is that while I was reading it I didn’t think it was that great. I had to read it all in a weekend for my library book discussion. But after I thought about it for a few days, I appreciated its structure and all the small things that were placed early in the story. Thanks for visiting. I hope you are doing well and that you have a nice holiday 🙂

  3. Thanks for the recommendation, I might give this a try even though it’s not the sort of book I usually read. But I’ve found out that a well-written book of any genre is a joy to read, and I trust your judgement.

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