Monday, 27 June 2016

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Book Review

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin - Reading, Writing, Booking

Firstly, sorry for not posting for a while, I'm very busy with work at the moment and I'm also getting married in August (less than two months, oh GOD!), so time has gotten away from me a bit.

I really wanted to make time to write this review though as Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin (Penguin) is a book that I really enjoyed and I think Heaberlin is a crime writer to watch.

16 year old Tessa Cartwright is the only surviving Black-Eyed Susan, the name given to the victims of a serial killer who left their bodies beneath a Texas field of the yellow flowers. Tessa's memory of the event is fragmented and hidden deep inside her. What she can remember she uses to put a suspect in prison and hopes that she can move on with her life.
Years later Tessa is grown with her own daughter and tries to block out her past. But then she discovers a patch of Black-Eyed Susans beneath her bedroom window that seem to be newly planted. Does this mean that the serial killer is still out there and Tessa has put an innocent man on Death Row? Tessa must go back into her past and try and retrieve her memory in order to learn the truth of the Black-Eyed Susans killer.

You may think that the plot sounds similar to several thrillers out there; serial killer, surviving victim, delving into the past to discover the truth. But Heaberline adds depth to this story and tells it in a way that is not just sensationalism, but almost beautiful in parts. She has the knack of writing about truly horrific circumstances in an elegant way. Instead of detracting from the horror and terror of the story I believe this way of writing adds to it. So many thrillers are in your face with the guts and gore, but this book delivers it in such a way that it is actually a lot creepier and unsettling.

But then as you're reading there will suddenly be a frank realism in amongst the lyrical language; a maggot infested body in a flower field. By littering the narrative with brief but bruising depictions of horror Heaberline makes it that bit more frightening than if there was relentless and brutal pain throughout.

If you're worried that this is going to be a dull book full of artistic descriptions of dying girls and flowers, don't be; Black-Eyed Susans is still a cracking good read, a well-paced thriller that makes you want to keep reading, and with that favourite plot point in the thriller world, a surprise twist at the end.

All the way through reading this I had the sensation of not being quite comfortable. I thoroughly enjoyed the book but just as you believe you're getting to know a character something happens that makes you distrust them. It adds to the paranoia of the novel.

I also like the way Black-Eyed Susans jumps in time and switches in perspective, especially at the beginning, it goes from 16 year old 'Tessie' recovering from her experience to present day Tessa trying to cope with the belief that the killer may still be out there. I know some readers have found this confusing but I thought it was perfectly balanced, you get just enough from each Tessa without getting too comfortable or bored in the time period.

I polished this book off very quickly and would definitely recommend it to lovers of crime who are looking for something a bit different.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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