The Bug Jar is a suspense story with a mental health theme. The book is contemporary and set in Chicago.
Samantha Hollard (Sam) has mental health issues. Her medication allows her periods of release from the world. She thinks she killed a boy called Evan. However, she first heard of the story on the news; a car with her distinctive type and colouring was reported at the scene. The crime scene is a neighbourhood she regularly visits, and her car does has a child-size dent in the bumper; she just can’t remember the accident.
Sam has a complex life; she dropped out of college, struggles to hold down a job and is sleeping with two men. One of them is politician Richard Harrison, who is currently in the running for mayor; he’s also Evan’s stepdad.
The layers of plot are skilfully muddied by Sam; the reader must decide if her state of mental health makes her a reliable witness or not. And what about the police; do they want to solve Evan’s murder, but risk political wrath, or maintain their pay checks? In a stand against a society label which threatens to keep Sam quiet and locked away, she fights to be heard and to be given a fair second chance.
I enjoyed this book, and was first attracted by the stunning book cover. The descriptions of the rampaging political machine, which shows no remorse or care for fellow humans, were very believable. I thought the mental health themes were well written and they made me think about the messages in the book long after I’d finished reading. Recommended for those who enjoy a mild suspense.
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For make-up salesgirl Samantha Holland, life is a constant struggle to cling to reality. Her tenuous hold on sanity is exacerbated by a toxic affair with wealthy and powerful State Representative Richard Harrison, who gets sadistic pleasure toying with her already confused mind. But Sam comes closest to losing her grip when Harrison’s emotionally disturbed stepson is murdered—and the police suspect her. When Harrison tries to break off their relationship, Sam tries to save herself by piecing together patchy memories of what might be her own involvement in the killing. The truth she uncovers is more sinister than she could have imagined.