Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Title: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


his 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? Find out in Jennifer Hillier’s Jar of Hearts.


Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier is a compelling and twist-filled mystery.

Fourteen years after Georgina “Geo” Shaw’s best friend, Angela Wong, disappeared, her remains have been unearthed in the woods close to Geo’s childhood home. The investigation quickly hones in Geo and after her arrest, she agrees to testify against Calvin James, her boyfriend at the time of Angela’s murder. In exchange for her co-operation, Geo only has to serve a five year prison sentence while Calvin is sentenced to life in prison.  

After Angela’s disappearance, Geo and Calvin’s lives went in very divergent directions. Geo is a successful businesswoman with a brilliant future ahead of her. Calvin, on the other hand, murdered at least three other woman and has been dubbed the “Sweetbay Strangler”. Despite the passage of time and the horrific way in which their ill-fated romance ended, Geo is still drawn to the former bad boy turned serial killer which her old high school friend, Seattle Detective Kaiser Brody is quick to notice. Kaiser is also quite convinced that Geo knows more than she is telling but she refuses to tell anymore about what happened to Angela than required.

Geo is not an easy woman to feel much sympathy for given her past. Yes, she was only sixteen when she was involved in Angela’s death but she had numerous opportunities to tell the truth. As an adult, Geo takes full responsibility for the choices she made and she is quick to admit she realizes just how unconscionable her actions were. Fully aware she cannot completely put the past behind her, Geo nevertheless wants to look forward as she tries to find a job and a place to live after she is released from prison.

Complicating Geo’s integration back into society are a series of unsettling homicides that are eerily reminiscent of Calvin’s previous murders. There are very disturbing alterations to the present day murderer’s MO that are quite puzzling and it is difficult to fathom the killer’s motive for these changes. When Kaiser uncovers the horrifying truth about the victims, he is very concerned for Geo’s safety.

Through a series of sometimes harrowing flashbacks, the truth about Geo’s relationship with Calvin is fully revealed. Her obsession with the five years older man leads to radical changes in her behavior as she devotes all of her free time to him. The situation comes to a head in a dramatic fight with Angela but this also serves as a wake-up call for Geo. The girls quickly make up and their friendship is soon back on track.  Their reconciliation occurs just days before Angela’s murder and Geo remains guilt-ridden about her role in the night’s events. In fact Geo is carrying such a heavy load of guilt, curious minds will be desperate to learn exactly what transpired that fateful night.

Jar of Hearts is an absolutely spellbinding mystery that has plenty of shocking secrets and stunning revelations. Although Geo is a somewhat unsympathetic lead character, it is not hard to root for her as she tries to get her life back on track. The present day murders are very brutal with some truly horrifying elements and astute readers will most likely deduce the killer’s motive right before the big reveal.   However, Jennifer Hillier has a few tricks up her sleeve as she brings this riveting novel to a rather surprising conclusion.  This clever mystery is sure to be a hit with fans of the genre.


Filed under Contemporary, Jar of Hearts, Jennifer Hillier, Minotaur Books, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

2 Responses to Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

  1. Timitra

    Sounds good, thanks for the review Kathy