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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Don't Say a Word

Don't Say a Word

Strangers Series


Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Publication Date: 5/3/2016

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars

Death has always stalked single mother Allie Callahan. For the first time in her life, she has found a fragile sort of happiness living a quiet, peaceful existence in East Texas with her young son, Sammy, and her adoptive mother.

Still, Allie fears she may be susceptible to the same mental illness that destroyed her mother and serial-killer brother. She's haunted by the idea that she could become incapable of caring for Sammy.

When twelve-year-old twins Zoe and Carrie arrive on her doorstep late one night, their parents slain in a vicious double homicide, Allie’s strength and sanity are put to the test. What did the twins see on the night of their parents’ horrific murder? They are too frightened to say.

Soon faced with a series of menacing phone calls, a rising body count, and the pressure of keeping the girls and her own son safe, Allie fears she'll lose her mind, her insanity—and her one shot at happiness—once and for all.

My Review

Talented crime writer, Jennifer Jaynes returns following Never Smile at Strangers, and Ugly Young Thing with her “best yet”- DON’T SAY A WORD, an enthralling psychological crime mystery suspense thriller, guaranteed to keep you glued to the pages from the first page, to the explosive ending- leaving you breathless! Allie Callahan has not had an easy life. An orphan, with a horrific past and childhood—her mom and brother suffered from mental illness. In her younger years, she even attempted to end her own life, when left all alone to face the brutal world. She still has scars and fears. At sixteen, she was given the opportunity to have a real life. A real family. A new start. She was adopted by her kind older foster mom, Bitty Callahan. She loves and respects her. A home she has always dreamed of. Now twenty-two, Allie and her young son, Sammy and dog Piglet--- reside with Bitty, in their comfortable home in Texas. She is putting her demons behind her. However, she has to continue to put the old unhealthy voices from her biological mother aside. Bitty always taught her, “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.” Allie always feared losing her mental health and become incapable of being the type of mother her four- year- old son, Sammy deserved. Sammy was her reason for living. For everything. Allie was excited about the new chapter in her life, in terms of her career, she was following in Bitty’s footsteps as a wellness practitioner. She was drawn to the work for many reasons, but mainly because it was rewarding and flexible. As the book opens there is a brutal murder. Two twelve-year-old twin girls (Zoe and Carrie), are left in their home alone for days with their murdered parents. They are traumatized. When the authorities arrive, the girls are sent by child protective service to reside in foster care with Bitty. Allie was a little nervous, when foster children came to stay. She always felt uneasy each time a new kid arrived; however, she could not tell Bitty. Allie admired the fact Bitty fostered kids. Bitty had given her a second chance at happiness—a chance most kids with past like hers never got. So she would help any way she could. She owed it to Bitty. The twins are NOT ordinary. They were coming from the rich Sherman Landing area nearby. Even though the girls had lived in a poor white trash trailer park, their deceased dad had recently won $1.2 million dollars. From drugs and abuse from mom, and truck driver dad, on the road the majority of the time. When the caseworker brought the girls to stay with the Callahan's, they soon learned the girls are very disturbed. Carrie would not speak and very withdrawn. Zoe tended to be more outspoken, and even manipulative, at times. Could she trust them around her son? Zoe-dissociative amnesia. Carrie selective mutism. Due to their trauma, the caseworker mentioned in addition to their parent’s murder, the younger brother was hit by a truck and killed three years earlier and the girls witnessed the tragic event. The grandmother wants nothing to do with them. Total dysfunction. From detectives, forensic therapist, Child Advocacy, and caseworkers-- everyone was involved in the case. Allie knew all too well, people never healed from the horror of murder. Not completely. Allie always helped Bitty with the foster children—she was never emotionally invested. This time she becomes involved. As the investigation continues, Gary, the mom’s boyfriend shows up, putting them all in danger. Allie’s former boyfriend, Johnny (Sammy’s dad) shows up without any notice, and she is ready to put him out of her life. Their personal lives and home become insanity. A check written for seven hundred thousand the day before the murders? Prone to depression and anxiety attacks, Allie had learned to control her thoughts before they spiraled out of control. However, since the twins came to live with them, nothing is normal. Strange phone calls, cars, hang ups, and weird behavior with both girls. Another murder. Since she laid eyes on these girls, the whole safe world that had taken her years to build felt as flimsy as a house of cards. There is tension between the twins, and something is not right. Carrie was more self-conscious (Allie can relate to her, if she will let her in). Carrie has been cutting herself and is slowly slipping away. Zoe tends to want to bond with Allie; more confident--her personality goes from good to bad. Allie wants to trust the girls around her son Sammy, however, she is overprotective. Is she putting him in danger around the girls? From blood-curdling shrieks, screams--the girls needed her help—she could not deny them; she can sympathize—she has been there; however, is she putting her life and her son’s in harm’s way? Who really murdered the twin's parents? Wow, this is one intense saga---secrets and lies. Flashing back and forth we hear from the time prior to the murders. Slowly the author cleverly peels back the layers of the events leading up to the murders. Nothing is as it appears. Chilling, dark, gripping, shocking, and un-put-downable!When I looked up from the book for the first time 50% through the book. From 50%-75%, the intensity is mind-blowing. From 75% to the ending, fast-paced action--twists and turns you do not see coming! You are totally invested in the characters—Damaged with a Capital “D”. Forget about sleeping. With Allie’s delicate complex and tortured past, co-mingled with the twins domestic current and past mental situation, strongly emphasizing the psychology of its characters and their unstable emotional states. Obsessive, pathological, moral conflicts, fear and anxiety are strong drivers. No one can write EVIL better than Jennifer. I enjoyed hearing from Sammy's perspective; a four-year-old’s view (priceless), as well as Zoe, Carrie, and Allie. (Since the author is a mother of younger twins, she shines here). Sammy is full of wonder and curiosity- very observant. You will love him and want to give him a big hug. He likes to spy on others. He is innocent and he thinks it is fun. A cautionary tale for mothers--you never know what secrets your child may be keeping. A strong mother’s love. Sammy is her priority. You will love Bitty, and readers root for Allie, to the end--and sympathize with her situation. Hoping Allie will find some happiness in the next book with a possible new budding romance with the sexy Detective. (Knowing Jaynes, it will not be a smooth road). Can't wait. If you are looking for a scary crime thriller that send chills down your spine, leaving you on the edge of your seat until the very end---this one is for you. A mix of Gothic, domestic, crime, psychological, detective, action, drama, horror, suspense, mystery, and thriller. The author rocks! Integrating personal character elements into mystery and suspense, toeing the line between a dramatic character study and a plot structure you'd expect from a strong psycho-crime horror thriller movie. (would make for a great Prime series). For fans of Mark Edwards, Kathryn Croft, Lisa Unger, and Jennifer Hillier. Recommend reading Jennifer’s first two books above, while awaiting the release date of her third installment. Even though Don’t Say A Word, may be read as a standalone -the author does an outstanding job of getting you up to speed; however, in order to really get a good grasp of the main protagonist, you will want to read the previous books----All three are top quality! The author just keeps getting better (if this is possible). Thanks Jennifer, all your efforts have not gone unnoticed. A winner! 5 Stars + A special thank you to the author, Thomas & Mercer, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review

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About the Author

I’m a novelist, wife and mommy to the most wonderful twin four-year-olds on the planet.

While earning my Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences at Old Dominion University and a certificate from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I did a little bit of everything to pay the bills. I’ve been a gas station attendant, waitress, a dancing waitress, beer girl, shot girl, bartender, closing coordinator, executive assistant, medical assistant, EMT, content manager, webmaster, news publisher, editor, copywriter, weight loss coach and publishing consultant.

Jennifer Jaynes

However, through it all, what I really wanted to be was a novelist.

It’s been a very long, and sometimes difficult road, but in 2011, I finally began living my dream with the release of my debut thriller, Never Smile at Strangers. To date, Never Smile at Strangers has earned a place on the USA Today Bestseller’s list, the #1 spot (across all categories) in the Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store, has graced the Top 5 in the mystery/suspense category in the Kindle Store multiple times, and has appeared in the Top 25 in the Kindle Store (across all categories).

In 2014, Thomas & Mercer acquired the rights to Never Smile at Strangers and is re-releasing it on January 27, 2015. They also bought the rights to my second novel, Ugly Young Thing, and will release it on March 3, 2015.

If I’m not working on my third thriller, I’m either caring for my sons, cooking, baking, cleaning, reading or connecting with friends, readers and fellow writers on social media. Website







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