“Jackal” by Erin E. Adams
Review by Yvonne Selander, collection development librarian
Liz Rocher’s best friend is getting married in their hometown. A hometown she left after graduation and never looked back. People would go to New York City to see her. She would never return to Johnstown, Penn., to see them. But she can’t not attend her best friend’s wedding to her high school sweetheart. Plus, Caroline, the couple’s young daughter, would be heartbroken if Liz didn’t attend.
It’s not just that Liz is in the minority as a Black person in Johnstown. Disturbing things happen there. It’s not until Liz returns and starts hearing stories from the Black community, people she never really mixed with since she lived up the hill with her doctor mother, that she realizes how strange it is. She always thought that her classmate who went missing and was found dead with her heart removed was a tragedy, but a singular one. Then she finds out that every year at about the same time a Black girl disappears from Johnstown. Sometimes they are found dead, sometimes they are never found. Discovering that this has been happening for decades makes Liz’s scar itch; one she can’t remember receiving in the woods the night her classmate disappeared.
All Liz wants to do is get through the wedding and leave Johnstown, this time forever. But during the wedding reception Caroline goes missing.
This is one of the books that keeps you guessing. I really thought this was a straightforward serial killer thriller, but it’s also an examination of race and class in a community where unspeakable tragedy (the Johnstown flood) strikingly demarcated class by elevation levels and continues to this day. But there is also something “other” just lurking under the surface. You get a glimpse and convince yourself you didn’t see it much like Liz has for years and years. Enjoy dear reader, you’re in for some surprises here.