Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hiller 
Release Date: June 12, 2018 
Publisher: Minotaur Books, St Martin's Press
Genre: Adult, Thriller/Mystery 
Source: ARC provided by publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest 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 . . .

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?


Jar of Hearts was a fast read. The story was interesting enough to keep me hooked; however, there were a few things missing from it, in my opinion.

For one, I never thought the characters were incredibly well developed. It's told from two POVs - Geo and Kaiser - and while Jennifer did a great job of splitting up the POVs, I never felt a real connection. Emotion and feelings weren't overly present. I never got a good feeling of who they were, what they stood for, and honestly, neither one was all that likable or likable in that unlikable kind of way.

I felt that Geo was selfish, and while she was presented as being resourceful and put together, I never truly saw that. I also didn't like how everything just always fell into place for her. Yes, she struggled in prison, and yes, she faced events that no woman should have to face, but yet she always seemed to come out on top. She found protection easily in prison, she got the prison job she so desperately wanted....it was just a little too perfect.

Kaiser, on the other hand, was supposed to be the former nerdy boy turned hot cop, but I never found him all that swoon worthy. For one, I didn't like how nonchalant he was about being involved with a married woman, or how cold he was in certain aspects of his life. His hot-and-cold relationship with Geo also didn't interest me. The relationship and thus romance that evolved between them never seemed natural, as there wasn't much chemistry.

The plot in this reads like a CRIMINAL MINDS episode. There's a notorious serial killer called the Sweetbay Strangler; however, he always seems to invade the authorities just at the right moment. When the book first begins, the sweetbay strangler is identified as Calvin Harris. He's put away, bringing Geo, his former girlfriend, down with him for his first ever murder involving Geo's best friend Angela.

Jennifer slowly reveals the details of what happened that night. It's not overly obvious as to what Geo's role was, and given the note Geo receives from Calvin ("You're welcome"), it's clear there's more to it than either one admitted out loud. From the first chapter, I was intrigued...I wanted to know more about that night, what events lead up to the death, and throughout it's slowly pieced together. However, when the big moment is finally reveled, it felt slightly underwhelming. It wasn't incredibly twisty - I had somewhat predicted it earlier. It also didn't help that I never felt the bond between Angela and Geo. They never seemed like best friends; instead, they felt more like frenemies, as they both gave and they took wickedly from each other.

In addition to the Angela mystery, there's also series of new murders introduced. While the new murders did add a shock factor to the novel, they also didn't feel incredibly well done. Maybe I've watched too many crime shows and read too many thrillers, but there were so many times at which I could see the writing on the wall when it came to who was responsible, and the fact that the police, especially Kaiser, refused to see the whole picture, putting the blame on the easy target, drove me insane. Also, I didn't like how some parts of this novel were so unbelievable. For example, it didn't make sense that Kaiser - someone who was incredibly close to the victim AND the perpetuator - was the main guy on the case. Isn't that a case of conflict? Plus it was so easy to see that he was biased because of it...even his partner called him out on it... Additionally, there's a moment at the end that also seemed out there. I won't go too much into it, but once again, it was one of those moments were Geo seemingly faced no repercussions.

Overall, Jar of Hearts was more of a miss than a hit for me.

Did it keep me entertained? Yes. 
Do I think lovers of thrillers will enjoy it? Probably. 
But would it be my top recommendation? No. I feel that other upcoming thrillers (Baby Teeth for example) are better done.

2.5 stars


  1. Awe, I'm sorry this wasn't a great read for you. I really liked it but can understand some of of your issues too. :)

  2. Oh, too bad! Sometimes I watch Criminal Minds reruns and they creep me out. Unlikable characters and poor execution on the mystery would probably keep me away from this one!


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