Tuesday 10 May 2016

Review ~ Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

UK paperback cover
Michael Joseph
10 March 2016

I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.
I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.
The lucky one.

When Tessa Cartwright was sixteen she was found buried in a Texas field, barely alive and surrounded by bones and with no recollection of how she got there. In the twenty years since this incident, Tessa has lived with macabre memories, which may, or may not be shrouded in truth and with the added burden of being known as the lone surviving Black Eyed Susan, a sobriquet given to the other murder victims because of the yellow flowers which survived around this shared resting place. Flipping forwards and backwards in time, the story shifts between the present and the past, focusing on Tessa as a thirty something mother, but with a poignant reminder that she was once sixteen year old Tessie with hopes and dreams, before they were cruelly snatched away.

During Tessa’s desperate search for the truth, a sorry tale of cruelty and manipulation emerges, which focuses on her overwhelming need for redemption and closure. I found myself warming to Tessa who is understandably brittle, and so adept at self-preservation that it's difficult to know where to start to gauge her character; however, the author does an interesting job of patching together all the pieces of Tessa’s complex personality.  Overall, I think that the story works well, with some tantalising clues dropped like little nuggets which start to surface towards the end, and which you only realise are there when it's too late to have that "ha ha it was you" moment.

I like books which make me think, stories that aren't sewn up and concluded within the first few pages and for me Black Eyed Susans worked well because I had to read the story slowly in order to take on board what was being offered, which, rather unusually for me, meant that I hadn't figured out the ending until it was upon me. And now to the ending, well, there's been some criticism that the denouement is a bit of a disappointment and I agree, that it's more of a slow fizzle, rather than a sparkling sizzle, which is a real shame, as I think the book deserved more of a fire cracker ending.

But overall, I wasn’t disappointed and by the end of the book, I realised that I had enjoyed the story and can well understand why it has gathered so much interest in the book media.

Best Read With ....A slice of Effie's bulgar-banana bread and a large Starbuck's Latte..

Julia Heaberlin is an award-winning journalist. Before launching her career as an author, she was an assistant managing editor over features sections at large metropolitan newspapers. She lives with her husband and son in Texas, where she is a free-lance writer and is at work on her fourth book

Photo credit :Jill Johnson

Twitter @juliathrillers

My thanks to Karen at My Reading Corner for kindly giving me her spare copy of this one.


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