Jane Nelson is a loving mother of two who has drowned her toddler son and is charged with his murder in this powerful examination of love, loss, and family legacy. When a prosecutor decides Jane's husband Tom is partially to blame for the death and charges him with "failure to protect," Tom's attorney proposes a radical defense. He plans to create reasonable doubt about his client's alleged guilt by suggesting that Jane's genetic predispositions contributed to her sudden snap.


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Jane Nelson is a loving mother of two who has drowned her toddler son and is charged with his murder in this powerful examination of love, loss, and family legacy. When a prosecutor decides Jane's husband Tom is partially to blame for the death and charges him with "failure to protect," Tom's attorney proposes a radical defense. He plans to create reasonable doubt about his client's alleged guilt by suggesting that Jane's genetic predispositions contributed to her sudden snap.

With the help of a woman gifted with the power of retrocognition-the ability to see past events through objects once owned by the deceased-the defense theory unfolds through an unforgettable journey into the troubled minds and souls of eight of Jane's ancestors.

Janeology deftly illustrates the ways nature and nurture weave the fabric of one woman's life, and renders a portrait of one man left in its tragic wake.

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Editorial Reviews

Donald T. Phillips
Beautifully written, compellingly crafted, Janeology lures the reader into a world that few of us understand, but all of us need to know. This affecting story, with its brilliant array of genial, selfish, troubled, and plucky characters, accomplishes a wonderful feat by revealing specific and universal truths within all families. (Donald T. Phillips, bestselling author, Unto Us a Child: The True Story of an American Family and Lincoln on Leadership)
Publishers Weekly

Tom Nelson, a Texas academic, is devastated when his wife, Jane, drowns their two-year-old son and almost kills the boy's twin sister in Harrington's uneven debut. To Tom, Jane's violent act was inconceivable and impossible to predict, but after she's found not guilty by reason of insanity, he becomes the object of vilification and, eventually, criminal prosecution for child endangerment and neglect. The novel alternates between Tom's trial and flashbacks that include the efforts of Jane's clairvoyant relative, Mariah Hernandez, to recover the events in Jane's past and in her ancestors' lives that may have predisposed her to kill. Mariah's visions-flashbacks within flashbacks-distract from the main plot, while those interested in the legal issues may be put off by such amateurish mistakes as the prosecutor calling Tom to the stand in apparent ignorance of the Fifth Amendment. At her best in conveying Tom's despair, the author fails to do full justice to the complex and fraught subject of maternal filicide. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781449502669
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Publication date: 5/18/2011
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen Harrington

Karen Harrington is the author of There's a Dog in the Doorway, and the recipient of honors from the Hemingway Short Story Festival, the Texas Film Institute Screenplay Contest, and the Writer's Digest National Script Contest. She lives in Plano, Texas.

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 31, 2009

    Must read this engaging thriller!!

    Karen Harrington's suspenseful drama explores the haunting aftermath of Jane Nelson drowning her young son. Her husband, Tom, is charged with 'failure to protect' his children from their mother. He is deeply troubled by the many questions raised following this inexplicable act. His lawyer seeks to prove that Jane's genetic inheritance had a role in creating her impulse to murder, therefore Tom could not have foreseen his wife's actions. A psychic provides fascinating flashbacks into generations of Jane's ancestors. Ms. Harrington brilliantly moves back and forth in the lives of these past and present family members. I really loved this exceptionally well-written novel. It left me deeply and thoroughly pondering the complexities of these crimes. An unexpected, yet gratifying, ending completes this mesmerizing thriller.

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  • Posted March 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Good Read

    Jane Nelson a young mother of twins, murders her toddler son. When it is found that Jane was suffering from mental issues at the time,her husband is taken to court for failure to protect his children from her. The book centres around Tom Nelson's fight to clear his name amidst his feelings of guilt over what happened to his son. I found the first part of the book a little long-winded and was wondering where it would go, as it seemed a bit repetitive going over and over Tom's lawyer's proposed defence that Jane's genetic make-up was responsible for her actions and that, therefore, she had a latent tendency towards violence which no-one could have foreseen unless they knew all about her family history. Then there is an unexpected turn of events when a psychic, Mariah, is brought into the story to try to make contact with Jane's dead ancestors by handling family heirlooms, items which once belonged to the deceased. This is where the story becomes interesting and will have you hooked. Karen Harrington writes well and has created an intriguing story which weaves the lives of Jane's ancestors into a tapestry showing how their behaviour affected the family line eventually leading to Jane's violent tendencies. I did find the part of the story involving Mariah was a little far-fetched as we were supposed to believe that Tom, his lawyer and the psychic would all be lucid and able to think straight after staying awake for over 24 hours. I couldn't help thinking that there would have been some hallucinations going on then!! However, that aside, 'Janeology' is a good read with a plot which could be turned into a made-for-tv movie. It kept me interested and the ending is also rather unexpected and a nice twist.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2008

    Janeology is a mesmerizing read!

    Janeology is a unique and captivating blend of legal drama and paranormal suspense. Jane and Tom Nelson represent an average American family, with twins Simon and Sarah, and the family dog. But one incomprehensible act forever changes their lives: Jane attempts to drown her children and the dog¿and only one survives. What follows is unexpected. Instead of the courtroom drama with Jane in the hot-seat, we¿re taken to a time when she is already committed to a psychiatric hospital, and Tom now stands trial in his own fight¿the battle to prove that he was not responsible for his wife¿s actions, that the charges of ¿failure to protect¿ will see him as innocent. Starting off as a legal thriller, the novel takes an interesting detour when a psychic with family ties is brought in to provide an unusual and compelling genealogical defense¿that Jane inherited her indifference and un-motherly qualities from generations of ancestors. I found the flashbacks into Jane¿s ancestors¿ lives very intriguing, and some of the complexly drawn characters still linger in my mind. Karen Harrington expertly paints her characters with multiple layers, and with vivid imagery that quickly carries the reader through the pages. You won¿t want to put it down. Perhaps the author has touched upon a truth here. Having actually known and befriended a woman who, years after I¿d lost touch with her, had abused, imprisoned and starved her young son to death, I have asked myself many of the same questions that Tom asked. What makes a mother kill her own child? Why didn¿t I recognize the signs? Janeology is a novel you won¿t soon forget. I know I won¿t. It delves into a highly sensitive topic that is sadly ripped from the headlines in nearly any given month and is never discussed in such detail. All in all, Janeology is a mesmerizing read! I can¿t recommend this novel enough! ~Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of Whale Song and Divine Intervention

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2008

    Makes You Rethink, 'This could Never Happen to Me'

    If you are looking for a legal thriller that will stop and make you think, 'Wow, this could really happen', then you don't have to go any further than Karen Harrington's new book, Janeology. We all are moved beyond words when we see the stories about a mother who kills her children. But what about the husband? Karen takes us into the life of a husband who has experienced the unspeakable when his wife murders one of their young twins. Not only does he walk in an alcohol induced haze as he struggles with the memory of losing a child and trying to make sense of how a wife he loves could commit an act like this, he then has to prepare to defend himself to the legal system and to the world as he has to face the haunting accusation of 'failure to protect' his son. The argument: He should have seen the warning signs that led to this tragedy and taken steps to prevent it. If you want a ride that takes you through a plethora of emotions and causes you to rethink things that until now seems obvious, then let Karen guide you through the fascinating and heart wrenching story she has crafted. Janeology is a book you need to put on your list today for your summer reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2008

    A reviewer

    First time novelist Karen Harrington's JANEOLOGY is a reading experience so thoughtfully conceived and written that accepting the fact that this is a first novel flirts with disbelief. Not only is Harrington a masterful conjurer of a suspenseful thriller, but she is also a wordsmith able to maintain the reader's attention and involvement in her masterful exploration of the science of psychology, genetics, and the fascination with the concept of retrocognition, all the while unraveling a mystery not unlike decoding a strand of DNA. If, indeed, this is a first novel, then we are in the presence of a gifted artist with a bright and solid future. In a Prologue, Harrington sets the stage for the drama that will unfold in the course of her novel, just as in the Epilogue she manages to tie her tale together in as surprising a fashion as the method in which she relates her story. Jane Nelson is jailed for the drowning murder of her young son Simon and the attempted drowning of Simon's twin sister Sarah. What lead to this horrid act is the theme of the story. That, and the fact that Jane's husband Tom is implicated for not recognizing the mental deterioration and signs of behavior alteration that, had he been more mentally and physically present in the family, could have prevented the tragedy. Tom is supported by his friend and lawyer Dave who is hired to defend Tom in the charges of child endangerment and neglect. Dave, Tom, and 'spiritualist/agent of retrocognition skills' Mariah slowly unravel the events that served as signals to Jane's ability to murder her children. This investigation is done through visits to Jane's past - startling discoveries of familial traits of mental instability as well as repeated incidents of abuse and desertion and brutally faulty mothering and interfamily secrets - that give rise to the question of whether Jane's illness is genetically determined or the product of cruel, inappropriate nurturing. Throughout these sessions before Tom's trial as a 'co- conspirator' we find Tom's initial love for Jane, his life with her and his twins, and the history of episodes involving Tom and Jane that could have prompted Tom to see Jane for the complete person she is rather than the perception of a wife as he elected to see her with blinders in place. 'The mask of self-control is a powerful antidote to the chaos that rages within us all.' In reflecting on Jane's torrid familial history Mariah states 'Children aren't born practical...Life makes them that way when they are forced to constantly make the best of every situation.' But Harrington's revisiting Jane's genealogy is peppered with many keenly observed ideas: '...time plus tragedy always equal comedy.' and '...pre-death purgatory may look like for the modern man, a place where you are forced to shore up the rationales for your behavior, a waiting room where you must sort out the misdeeds of your mother.' and 'Drugs are often the substitute for multiple generations of parenting support.' and 'I've heard that your mind runs its own tapes, tapes you play over and over again until you banish them through therapy, drugs or religion, or all of those things at once, until you replace them with new thoughts you can live with.' Tom, in preparing for his trial while Jane is held in custody in jail, absorbs all of the 'ancestral time travel' consequences he has witnessed with Dave and Mariah. '...we three had begun this odyssey looking for traits foretelling danger and we had found them. We found evidence that supported how Jane could have been the inheritor of characteristics that perhaps predisposed her to a personality ill-suited for parenting, its mounting pressures and the daily treadmill of maternal monotony.' And the trial for Tom Nelson pulls all these threads together in a manner that leaves much of the verdict to the reade

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2008

    More than a good mystery so much more

    I went into this book thinking that I had a straightforward mystery in my hands. By the time I was done, I found that 'Janeology' is so much more. This book is a surprise, and a very welcome one. Harrington takes a story that is all too familiar to us -- the murder of a child by a seemingly ordinary young mother who simply can't do it anymore -- and examines deeper issues of responsibility, the power of regret, and the ongoing deliberation concerning nature versus nurture. What begins as a courtroom drama evolves into a sometimes heartbreaking exploration of one family's past and the threads, both genetic and environmental, that connect us all to the unseen generations before us. As a storyteller, Karen Harrington creates believable characters: flawed, fragile, belligerent, and yet ultimately hopeful. Her dialogue, both contemporary and period, rings true. Most refreshingly, Harrington allows her story to avoid obvious paths and easy, instant gratification. When you reach the last pages, you will find yourself in a very different place than you might have anticipated. Different, and deeply satisfying.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    This is a fascinating legal thriller

    In Texas Jane Nelson was a loving wife and mother when she suddenly drowned her two and a half years old son Simon and almost killed the lad¿s twin sister Sarah. She is charged with the homicide, but found not guilty by reason of insanity. The prosecutor goes after Jane¿s husband devastated Tom saying that he should have known what his wife was capable of doing and thereby failed to protect his children. He was not just an accessory he by inactivity abetted the murder.------------------ The media hangs Tom his academic peers blame Tom, the public malign Tom. All need a scapegoat and the lunatic mom is considered too deranged whereas Tom is terific for the role. However, his lawyer Dave plans to make a reasonable doubt defense based on JANEOLOGY that insists her DNA has violence imprinted on it. Jane¿s psychic relative, Mariah Hernandez assists the defense by looking into Jane¿s past and that of her antecedents.--------------- This is a fascinating legal thriller with some paranormal elements that is at its best when the focus is on an anguished Tom outside the courtroom. The story line is fast-paced and gripping as readers will want to know what caused Jane to kill her son and attempt to kill her daughter Mariah¿s visions provide insight into the motives though admittedly some readers will find that gimmicky. However, the big issue is having the DA force Tom to testify seems inappropriate as he has Fifth Amendment rights that allow his side to determine whether they want him on the stand or not. Still this is an interesting look at the causes and effect of a horrific act.---------------- Harriet Klausner

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