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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Jump Rope by Ruby Jean Jensen

Ruby Jean Jensen is an author that keeps popping up when talking to friends about cool horror novels from the seventies and eighties. I have been looking for her books, but they are very hard to find and extremely sought after, which is a nice way for saying absurdly expensive on the used market. But finally, her work has come to digital and as soon as I saw that my kindle got a healthy dose of her books. I decided to start off with Jump Rope as it was recommended to me by a good friend Angie.

Jensen was well known for the children in danger genre, and this is a prime example of that. The book kicks off with an idyllic family, wealthy with beautiful children. Until the father, Alex, kills himself. Or did he? Their mother, Amanda, who has a troubled history of foster care and failed marriages before finding true love with Alex, is traumatized by his death. So, she tries hiring a fully time nanny/companion named Rachel. A woman who is also disturbed by the recent breakup of her marriage and loss of an unborn child due to a terrible car accident.

Initially she says no because of what she thinks is a disturbing hallucination but that turns out to be something else. When she sees on the news that the eldest daughter of the family has been murdered on the front lawn of the estate, she changes her mind and decides she needs to protect the children. But from what? That is the interesting part that I won’t spoil here. There are some twists and turns as well as a good supernatural angle that I found satisfying. In the end Rachel does figure it all out but not before a horrible cost has been paid.

Many times things are suggested to me that honestly don’t pan out. But if Jump Rope is any indication, I think I have a new favorite author. The story is solid with enough mystery to keep you engaged without being overly complicated. The setting is basically all at one house and the cast of characters is kept small. Jensen does a wonderful job establishing the story and populating it with interesting people that jump off the page. This is especially so for the children, some of whom it doesn’t end well for. That makes these sad fates all that much more powerful. I found myself wanting to read “just one more page” before putting it down for the night. I was hooked and cared about what happened next.  

The book doesn’t shy away from violence, but also doesn’t linger on it. Much of the mayhem is directed at children so it could have been disturbing, too much so. But Jensen walks that tightrope nicely giving you just enough to be creeped out without going far enough to lose the reader. That said if you don’t like children put in danger and violence towards them in your fiction then you won’t be wanting to read Jump Rope.  The connection to the kids and caring about what happens to them is the emotional core of the book.

If I had one complaint it was the ending. Things are tied up nicely without a whole lot of explanation. We do get a happy ending due to some rather trite after the fact explanation. The person responsible for the killings gets off a bit easy as their comeuppance happens in a matter of a couple of paragraphs. It isn’t even explained why things were resolved in the way they were. Again, I’m being a bit vague here so as not to ruin the ending. I’m doing so because despite what I just wrote the good far outweigh the bad and I’m going to recommend Jump Rope. It really is a great book, and I will be reading more Ruby Jean Jensen soon.

 

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

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