Ted knew only pain, despair, and darkness, which he focused in to studying etymology, reading, and science. The darkness is ever present in his otherwise normal-seeming interests. Ted’s interest in bugs begins with placing them in the “killing jar” where he slowly kills his subjects. He dissects living animals with seeming indifference, viewing them as objects and not living things. When Ted’s psyche breaks in a psychotic episode, he attacks his neighbor and murders her seven-year-old daughter.
Ted retreats in to the woods, so familiar to him to be an escape. When he is attacked by a bearded man, Ted isn’t sure if he is real, or an apparition of his worst fears. Ted is arrested and tried by his small-town community who are gunning to make Ted pay at any cost, burning with moral and religious superiority. An unlikely savior fights to get Ted the care he desperately needs, as his case is appealed, which will decide the rest of Ted’s life.
The Killing Jar masterfully balances a fluid blend of Ted’s story, court testimony, legal documents, and psychological reports to bring you in to the small community that was rocked by the violence of the murder. Ted’s story adds a layer of depth to the stark callousness of the legal proceedings, and allows the reader the chance to connect with Ted’s situation with empathy and understanding. While there is no expectation that Ted should be forgiven for his crime, the reader is able to see the entire story from multiple angles. This circular view also allows the reader the opportunity to invest in the desperation of Ted’s situation, and ache for him to get the care he needs before he is lost to his own internal demons forever.
While The Killing Jar is no easy read, it provides a unique approach and perspective often not afforded to other books that instead sensationalize the crime and psychology of “the guilty.”
Reviewed by Rachel J. Richards