Publication Date: October 4th, 2022
Hardcover. 336 pages.
Liz Rocher is coming home . . . reluctantly. As a Black woman, Liz doesn’t exactly have fond memories of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a predominantly white town. But her best friend is getting married, so she braces herself for a weekend of awkward and passive-aggressive reunions. Liz has grown, though; she can handle whatever awaits her. But on the day of the wedding, somewhere between dancing and dessert, the bride’s daughter, Caroline, goes missing—and the only thing left behind is a piece of white fabric covered in blood.
As a frantic search begins, with the police combing the trees for Caroline, Liz is the only one who notices a pattern: a summer night. A missing girl. A party in the woods. She’s seen this before. Keisha Woodson, the only other Black girl in school, walked into the woods with a mysterious man and was later found with her chest cavity ripped open and her heart missing. Liz shudders at the thought that it could have been her, and now, with Caroline missing, it can’t be a coincidence. As Liz starts to dig through the town’s history, she uncovers a horrifying secret about the place she once called home. Children have been going missing in these woods for years. All of them Black. All of them girls.
It’s your turn.
With the evil in the forest creeping closer, Liz knows what she must do: find Caroline, or be entirely consumed by the darkness."
Jackal follows Liz Rocher, a Black woman living with a successful career in New York who has not returned to her hometown of Johnstown, Pennsylvania in a number of years after a very traumatic event occurred while she was in high school. However, Liz is forced to face her hometown when she is persuaded by her best friend, Mel, to come home in order to be a part of Mel’s wedding. Once back home, she has to face all of the trauma and fear that lingers there from her high school experience, something difficult to do when everything comes rushing back when Mel’s daughter, Caroline, goes missing on the wedding night. With Caroline’s disappearance, Liz starts recognizing some patterns between a girl who went missing when she was in high school and Caroline’s disappearance… and eventually learns that every summer a black girl in the town goes missing. Liz thus makes it her goal to figure out why these girls are going missing and what it is this town has been hiding for so many years.
Jackal has a strong start and I was captivated from the very start. I really enjoyed getting to know Liz and understanding where so many of her fears and reservations ere coming from, as well as understanding why she left her hometown and had so many reservations about coming back. I appreciated her resoluteness and quiet, assured confidence, though she does have a streak of stubbornness at times that makes it difficult for her to move on. As an adult, however, I love her maturity after having an opportunity to live in the city and how much attention she now pays to the passive aggressive racist remarks she gets from the townspeople–and how much she realizes she isn’t going to tolerate it anymore. I felt myself really feeling her anger and dismay at what she got used to growing up in Johnstown and what everyone else has been ignoring all these years.
Jackal has a strong plot that takes off and doesn’t really look back. There are plenty of twists and Adams is truly skilled at writing and developing a haunting, eerie setting and atmosphere. I was hooked on this story and found Johnstown to be an incredibly unnerving town to the point that I felt Liz was pretty justified in not wanting to return! Jackal also covers many different elements of different genres, such as horror, thriller, mystery, and so on, and I think all of those were written and interwoven really well. Adams also tackled many important and difficult topics through her usage of these genres, and in particular, her exploration of racism and hate were all done in very masterful and powerful ways that really left me riveted. I think this book provides some fantastic starting points for discussion and how this still exists in our lives and how the issues explored continue to be issues every day.
I found the pacing of Jackal to be fairly consistent in the first half, though as the story progressed things definitely started slowing down and the consistency dropped off somewhat. I also found that, as this happened, my attention started wavering a bit in later portions and some plot events started feeling somewhat predictable. I still found the story very entertaining overall due to Adams’ skillful writing, but I just wasn’t quite as compelled as I was in the first half of the book.
Overall I think Jackal is a compelling, thoughtful and haunting story that will keep you fully engaged with Liz’s story and figuring out what exactly is going on in this town with her. I’ve given Jackal four stars and absolutely recommend it, especially as an October read!
*I received a copy of Jackal courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*