Thursday, February 23, 2006

'Jackson Corners' by Jennifer L. Hart

TITLE: Jackson Corners
AUTHOR: Jennifer L. Hart
PRICE: $14.95 printed, $5.59 download
GENRE: Contemporary fiction
ISBN: 1-4116-7078-7
PUBLISHER: Jennifer L. Hart via

Isabella Roberts is looking for a change. After a messy divorce to an anal-retentive husband, she bundles her two-year-old daughter out of the city and purchases a house in sleepy Jackson Corners. There she meets handsome, brooding Noah Davis, and learns that while her new home may come with neighbourly assistance and friendly faces, it also a lugs around a swathe of emotional baggage.

There’s one rule of thumb for writing a decent mystery: Plot Is Everything. Jennifer L Hart knows her plot and ought to be commended for her firm handling of it. Jackson Corners is fed to the reader with the utmost care and not a piece of information comes too soon. Every character is suspect; every action has an ulterior motive. The sinister presence lurking in Jackson Corners waits until the final moment to reveal itself and while the moment isn’t particularly shocking—everyone’s a suspect here, remember—it does deserve a shout of approval for keeping the guesses going so long.

Unfortunately, as all too often happens with mysteries, character and authenticity falter at the hands of the storyline. In particular, the sexual tension between some of the more prominent characters has a tendency to collapse into the realm of the undeniably cheesy. The prose itself is as contemporary as the world the characters inhabit: email and telephones are on equal footing and it’s completely normal for most of the characters to be (or see) a therapist. Word usage and proofing errors are the only real stumbling block in what is otherwise quite lively and well-planned prose. The extradiagetic narrative helps immensely and multiple points of view stop the story from lingering too long in any one place.

Ultimately though, it’s the plot that drives this novel forward. A real solid effort on that count.





Jennifer L hart said...

From the author:

Thank you for the review. While I don't necessarily agree with every assessment, I appreciate the honest evaluation. I'm thinking of pulling the book off of the print on demand shelf because I want to establish myself in the more traditional publishing market.

(This will also alleviate the pesky grammatical distractions, but might up the cheese factor just a tad.)

Just curious as to how you choose the rating out of ten, since there is no explanation apparent.


Stephanie C. said...

My personal scale allocates about a third of the points to the effect of the narrative, which takes into account things like:

- plot, setting and characters
- ability to engage audience

The other two thirds go to 'technical' things like:

- execution of the plot and storyline
- spelling, grammar and proofing
- structure, writing style, word use and language aesthetics
- overall cohesiveness

This shifts a bit depending on the story. By that scale, your story won big points with me on execution of plot, storyline, general writing style and overall cohesiveness, but fell down a bit on the grammar, word use and character count. Also, a couple of the scenes made me cringe a bit, which I attributed to the cheese factor.

That said, I think there's potential for more with this story, and if you want to try the traditional market, I think you've got a good start. I got the feeling that you really knew how to play with your audience and were confident with your plot. You've got multiple person POV down pat and I was seriously impressed with the structure. All I felt it really needed was a good, careful clean-up edit to trim some of the edges and tighten up the language. Like you said, the cheese factor isn't always a problem if you want to try the traditional market; especially not with a genre novel, although personally I'd suggest downplaying it a bit. However, if you do decide to try the traditional market, I wish you every success. :)