Monday, April 13, 2015

What Jennifer Saw by Hal Schweig

Release Date: November 7, 2013
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Author Website:

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

In a time when old-fashioned families seemed to be dying out, the Harris family was a jewel of Monroeville. Jim led by example, being an honest, hard-working father while Mary Beth took care of the home and children, deferring to her husband in the event of major decisions. The children were well-behaved and very well-mannered, something out of place in many cities throughout America, but praised by the older residents of Monroeville.

The family and the community's sense of safety shattered the night Jim Harris was murdered in his home. Clues and secrets twisted the investigation every which way, but most of all, it weighed heavily on Jennifer, the only daughter of Jim and Mary Beth. Buried deep within a trauma psyche, the answer to who killed her beloved father stayed locked as she descended into madness. As her doctors sought to recover the information and help the girl repair her broken mind, the killer lurking in the shadows wanted to make sure she never revealed what she knew. Can Jennifer break through the layers protecting her fragile mind before it's too late? Will the killer continue to destroy Monroeville one person at a time?

I saw the book's blurb while looking through the offerings at NetGalley and decided to give it a try due to the dark, mysterious scenario it presented. It took a little while to settle into the rhythm of the book and to figure out which time period it took place. The setting wasn't present day but it was after the 1950s because of the various references to WWII and the clashing of cultures within the United States. I went back and reread the beginning of the book to see if I missed a sentence where it had been pointed out, but didn't find an exact time frame. That left me somewhat puzzled until I was more than halfway through the book when the stereotypes, dialogue and the fact that psychologists were in the beginning stages of understanding multiple personality disorder (MPD).

As with many books, there were a number of characters that made up the whole of the book. The spotlight was split between Jennifer, the poor daughter who found her father; Kay, an ambitious reporter stuck in a field dominated by men; Lt. Braun, a man haunted by his past which collides with the present during the investigation; and Dr. Tim Adler, once renowned child psychologist who abruptly quit when his own daughter lost her life. Each of these and the secondary characters were well-described and had their own distinct personalities and reactions to the world around them. They certainly didn't blend with on another or lose the reader in the dialogue or action.

The book began with a portrait of the Harris family as the patriarch came home from work and greeted the others who had waited for his arrival before eating dinner. When the murder occurred a short time later, its impact on the family and community appeared quickly. An undercurrent of gossip flowed through the people of Monroeville as the investigation took months to reach its conclusion. For me the book began at a steady, but slow pace. It began to build in intensity and speed after the murder, but I found some scenes slowed the pace akin tapping the brakes on one's car. With the action, mystery and even some romance, a little something for everyone was available between the cover pages. Be advised that graphic violence and sexual scenes were including within the book. While they did serve to advance the plot at times, I thought some of the others were too over-the-top to match the tone of the book as I found it.

All in all, I felt the story was interesting and pretty good. There was a solid foundation to the story, but I felt it went away from the heart of the novel. The build-up to the reveal of the killer focused on a couple of suspects, one a little more obvious than the others. Before the end I guessed what happened, but I still enjoyed the ride and being proved right. If you're looking for a book that's one part dark, one part mystery or simply something a little different, this book is one you should consider.

What Jennifer Saw by Hal Schweig is currently available at many online retailers as well as the publisher's website ( ). It can be purchased in either paperback or Kindle format. The link below will open the book's page at Amazon.
What Jennifer Saw by Hal Schweig

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