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What propels a mother to suddenly ‘snap’ and murder her own children?

janeology_9lziThe premise for Karen Harrington’s first novel, JANEOLOGY, is certainly ambitious and fascinating. I couldn’t help thinking, with a premise like his, she better know how to pull it off.

Tom and Jane are the ‘perfect’ American couple. He is a college professor, she is a homemaker. Together, they are parents of two beautiful twins. That is, until one day Jane ‘snaps’ and decides to kill her toddlers. She succeeds in murdering one and almost killing the other. We later find out that she previously ‘rehearsed’ on their family dog.

The story beings after Jane has been sentenced to life in an asylum for murder under temporary insanity, so the reader won’t have to go through any type of gruesome child homicide descriptions. The main focus now is Tom. A year after the sentence, Tom is charged with negligence and failure to protect the children, and for not being able to forsee his wife’s mental instability and somehow prevent the murder. After all, who knows a wife better than her own husband? Or so it seems. Of course, the answer is a lot more complex than that.

Tom’s ambitious attorney decides to take an unusual approach to the case and brings forth a psychic (who’s also happens to be Jane’s relative) to help them. The psychic is able to ‘see’ into the past and through backflashes we get a glimpse of Jane’s troubled ancestors and the mental instability prevalent in her family history. Should Tom have seen through his wife’s depression and prevented the murder? What propelled Jane to murder her own children? How much is her DNA at fault?

JANEOLOGY is an engrossing, fascinating read, though I have to say that after a great beginning that succesfully grabs readers by the throat, it slows down in the middle as we go through the past lives of Jane’s family members. I was surprised by Harrington’s psychic in that for me it took away a bit of the serious tone presented in the first chapter. This is, however, a minor criticism. Harrington’s prose is forceful and compelling, and her style elegant and evoking. Tom’s character is excellently drawn, so much more than Jane, who for me stays shrouded in mystery somewhere in the background. The dialogue sparkles with genuinity. The ending is surrounded by ambiguity–Jane’s reasons for murder and Tom’s level of guilt, if any.

JANEOLOGY is one of those books that stay in your mind for a long time after you’ve read it–if only because you’ll keep trying to come up with answers! Karen Harrington is a new talented author to be reckoned with and I seriously look forward to reading more of her work.

Visit the author’s website at www.karenharringtonbooks.com

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