Review: Karen Harrington takes the reader on a most unusual literary adventure in her debut novel, Janeology. Marketed as a legal thriller it is really neither (in the conventional sense) but rather a series of fascinating, though often deeply disturbing, vignettes that taken together form a remarkable tale.
From all outward appearances, Tom and Jane lead a typical suburban family life, he a college professor, she a homemaker raising toddler twins. But one day Tom receives word at work that he urgently needs to return home accompanied by a police officer. He arrives to find his wife has tried to kill both their children, and has succeeded with one leaving the other in critical condition. Her only comment: I'm done with being a mother. Jane is subsequently tried for murder but acquitted on the reason of temporary insanity and confined to a hospital. The prosecutor in the case then decides Tom is to be charged with child endangerment and neglect, that somehow he must have known Jane was capable of murder and he didn't take any steps to prevent it. The lawyer Tom's mother hires to defend him, Dave Frontella, proposes a novel counterargument, that Jane was genetically predisposed to violence. "Jane snapped because generations of cold-blooded, impulse-driven genes were ready to erupt within her. Her predilection for sudden violence was inherited like diabetes or a gift for music." Toward this end, Dave employs a woman with the gift of retrocognition, the ability to see the past through an object in the present, and together they discover that Jane's ancestors may hold the key to Tom's defense.
Some readers, maybe most, are likely to be skeptical of the premise of Janeology. But what works in the book's favor is that Tom is equally skeptical, and repeatedly says so. The ancestral tales, however, are wonderfully written and oddly compelling, so much so that at just about the same time Tom comes around, the reader will as well. At one point he says, "A new thread on Jane's father's side of her family was about to be woven and I braced myself for the yarn, welcoming the stories now with an open mind and a greater enthusiasm for the journey the three of us were taking." And this is about the same time where it's nearly impossible to put this book down.
Janeology concludes with what can best be described (in a somewhat oxymoronic fashion) as ambiguous closure for both Tom and the reader that, upon reflection, is perfectly apt. This is truly a unique and memorable book.
Acknowledgment: Karen Harrington provided a copy of Janeology for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Janeology: Galveston, Texas
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Janeology by Karen Harrington
Publication Date: April 2008
List Price: $24.95