In his mid thirties, divorces and living alone, Bret Walker is still left haunted by the death of his friend, Rose, who was shot at a tennis tournament almost eighteen years ago. He desires release from his guilt, and redemption – a second chance to do right by her. So it seems like something out of a movie when she turns up at his front door one day in 2-16, fresh-faced and full of life. When Anne discovers the secret that has been hidden in the attic of her suburban home, she can’t quite believe her eyes. The revelations she makes send her on a 500-mile journey across country, with a mission to play out her destiny – her second chance at a life she never lived, but always meant to.
From the blurb I would say that it’s a classic crime story, someone dies and the people they’ve left behind harbor some secret about the past while something is uncovered to help solve that death and the secrets unravel. But upon reading Jennifer Two it is so much more than that. Bret Walker deals with the death of his friend Jennifer-Rose but the past has shaped his whole life. Plus Rose’s family isn’t as precious as they may first seem. I’ll keep the spoilers close to my chest for this one.
'Life has been upside down for a while now, and I just got used to walking on the ceiling and climbing on the floors.'
At the beginning, the pace can appear to be slow as we are introduced to the characters and their backstories. However, if W. J Precious delved straight into the action I don’t think we would’ve formed the connections with the characters properly. In addition, understanding the Middleton family (Rose’s parents and siblings) and Rose’s friends is crucial to the story. The pace quickens as the story goes on and then falls for a chapter, this movement is important to break up parts of the story but then it picks up again. All the way through it you are hooked on to the story of Bret and Anne, Rose’s sister, as they both figure out the truth behind Rose’s death, which seems simple enough but in truth multifaceted.
With any crime story there are clues written throughout the story, and this is no different. But there’s a healthy sprinkle of clues that you have to actually think to figure out. I like that because they aren’t so simple to discover and we as readers have to really get into the story to pick up on them. This is a sign of a great mystery because everything appears to be obvious but in fact nothing is. There’s always something else going on underneath the surface. In addition, with following this story it truly is a dive into confusion where you get lost and found continually throughout. It can be confusing sometimes but you pick yourself up along the way.
'We were idiots, we were chaotic, we were shooting stars and we were car crashes.'
W.J Precious sets the story up in the way of going back and forward not only in point of views but also in time periods. You have the present where Bret deals with his guilt and family and where Anne deals with her family and the many revelations. You also have the past which explains Rose’s death, her experiences with Bret and other friends, and how her family deals with her death. This back and forward toss and turn is welcoming to the reader because it allows more to be discovered and each flashback is placed effectively, splitting up scenes and building enthusiasm.
'Jennifer-Rose died over eighteen years ago. But I keep seeing her everywhere.'
Another thing that I like are the undertones of science and religion. There’s no winning thing, where science is always right and religion is disproven or vice versa. Within Two there is a balance where the center of the mystery relies on science; however, the family justifies their decisions with religion and God is alluded to several times. With someone who enjoys biology, the science aspect is well explored and research of the topic is evident. The religion aspect is respected and not shown in any negative light either.
“But here’s the catch: I’m someone else’s miracle. Not my own.”
This all may seem serious but it’s actually not. The author has divided it with humour so that you’re not too dragged down by the sad parts of the story – and let's be fair, Bret’s grief and Anne’s feelings towards her family do prove to be sad. An example of this is: ‘Hey, well maybe when you die, God’s like “Pick an outfit” and you get to wear it for the rest of your eternity.’ This is said towards Rose’s death and how if she was a ghost would she appear in the outfit she died in or not. It’s a nice break between the tension and you always crack a smile at the small intrusions.
Overall, Jennifer Two may be a long read but it's gripping and urges you to read further and between the lines. Maybe then can we draw our own conclusions and solve the mystery on our own. But I’m sure that our deductions will be very different to someone else’s. That’s a good thing.