“Jar of Hearts” by Jennifer Hillier – Book Review

“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…”

I’ve been meaning to read this novel for a while and thought it fitting (given the title) to post my review on Valentine’s Day. Although I have read several reviews of this novel, it still surprised me on many levels. Not at all what I expected.

We meet the protagonist, Geo (Georgina) Shaw, as she is arrested for a murder that took place fourteen years previously. The arresting officer, is one of Geo’s best-friends from high-school – a boy who loved her, but who she never thought of as more than a friend.

In the intervening years, Geo has made a success of her life, going to university, attaining a high-ranking corporate job, and becoming engaged to a wealthy man. Now, her life, which she worked so hard for, is in dire jeopardy.

Geo is sentenced to five years in prison. Although in many ways, Geo feels relief to have finally be found out, prison is still an experience that scars her, hardens her, and incontrovertibly changes her. Her fiance drops her like a hot brick. She has ample time to think about her past, and plan for her future. She also made a couple of good friends.

How did she get in this mess you might wonder? Well, Geo’s first love was a man called Calvin James, also known as “The Sweetbay Strangler”. When Geo was only sixteen, Calvin raped and murdered her best friend Angela. And Geo helped him to dispose of her body. Then she went on living her life for fourteen years, not divulging a word about her crime.

Calvin James was caught and sent to prison, but he later escaped…

Later, after she has served her time, Geo is released and goes home to live with her father. With no job, or job prospects, and now aged thirty-five, Geo doesn’t have much to look forward to.

Now though, more murders are taking place near Geo’s home. Women are being murdered in the same way Angela was all those years ago. Only now, the women are accompanied by children… children with a heart written on their chests in lipstick. Inside the heart are the words “See Me”. 

Is it Calvin James? 

I had very mixed emotions about the protagonist, Geo Shaw. Sometimes I felt sympathy for her plight, sometimes I wondered how she could sleep at night. How COULD SHE have done what she did? How COULD SHE have not reported the crime – for fourteen years!

As the book moves along, the reader is made privy to Geo’s past and what really happened back then. Yet still, I was torn about whether I could like her.  Did my sympathy outweigh my repugnance for her former actions? I chided myself for being judgmental.

This novel was well-written and very fast-paced. Often intense and unsettling, though riveting at the same time. The ending had what I can only deem a shocking and unsavory twist. Was justice meted out in the end? You be the judge.

One things for sure. I’ll never be able to eat a cinnamon heart again without thinking about this novel.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley. This review is my way of saying thank-you.

Jennifer Hillier in born in Toronto, but she spent eight years in the Seattle area, which is where all her novels are set. She is married with a young son. Her favorite author is Stephen King. She loves writing when it’s raining, sleeping when it’s sunny, and reading after everyone else has gone to bed.
Jennifer Hillier is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Crime Writers of Canada. She is also a regular columnist at The Thrill Begins, where she talks a lot about her writing journey.

You can find Jennifer Hillier on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Canadian fiction, NetGalley, Page turners, Psychological thrillers and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to “Jar of Hearts” by Jennifer Hillier – Book Review

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  6. carhicks says:

    Wonderful review Lynne. I also struggled with my feelings about Geo in this book. I enjoyed the story, it was well paced and twisty, but your question at the end of your review is right on.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, I’m dying to get to this book, which I have on audio. Just too many ahead of it right now. Great review!


  8. Wonderful review! I say if you struggled with the main character and still gave it 4 stars, it’s a tremendous read. One that I have also been remiss in reading and reviewing…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Annie says:

    I really enjoyed this one ❤ What a great ending!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Xstitchbee says:

    Added this one to My TBR list. Thanks for the review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. skyecaitlin says:

    I’m uncertain about this book, but your review is wonderful; I am trying to shy away from books that are overly violent, and ‘distasteful.’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Skye. Though I’m glad I read it, maybe you should give this one a miss. (I’m glad only to know what everyone was talking about. Most liked it more than me, but I can see that the fast-paced plot and circumstances would be appreciated by many – hence the rating.)


  12. Great review ! Did you find the character of Geo believable?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I bought this and I can’t wait to read it!!! Interesting though that you found the twist to be shocking and unsavory? I can’t tell if that means you liked it! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was enthralled by the story and gave it 4 stars for various reasons- yet I probably won’t read another title by this author. It was a page-turner. Still, it left a bad taste in my mouth…


  14. Rosie Amber says:

    I do prefer an MC that I can empathise with, so not sure this one is for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great review of a book I’ve been wondering whether I would enjoy – the unsavoury ending may not be to my taste!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Events near the end were upsetting, suspenseful, and distasteful all at once. The book had me hooked throughout, yet I don’t think I’d rush to read another title by this author. I realize this view is not shared by many.

      Liked by 1 person

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