Black Eyed Susans
I had no idea what to expect from this one, but it is probably my favorite so far this year--a psychological thriller that kept me from being able to predict the outcome. I'd have a suspicion, then conclude I was on the wrong track--then another suspicion.
Book Description: At seventeen, Tessa became famous for being the only surviving victim of a vicious serial killer. Her testimony put him on death row. Decades later, a mother herself, she receives a message from a monster who should be in prison. Now, as the execution date rapidly approaches, Tessa is forced to confront a chilling possibility: Did she help convict the wrong man?
The writing shifts from 1995 to the present, and although I have read many books that use this technique, I found myself initially a little jarred by the switches. This may be a deliberate ploy by the author to keep the reader a little off kilter; after all, the story deals with both the teenager who has endured a horrific experience and the adult who still doesn't remember everything about what happened. Life is out of kilter for Tessa in many ways, but something in her psyche prevents the experience and its aftermath from destroying her.
What I find particularly admirable about the book is that there are no graphic details. It is a little like reading a really good Hitchcock film--all the suspense, but without relying on gore or torture. Julia Heaberlin, in the midst of the suspense and tension, creates a strong protagonist with a healthy approach to life. It is often bewildering: the events that are missing from Tessa's memory and her attempts to unravel the past as well as some of the events in occurring in the present keeps the reader in the same disconcerting situation.
Although there is a mystery and solving the events of the past will explain some of the perplexing incidents in the present, the novel's strength is its characters-- who are so vivid they seem to breathe. The women carry this book: Tessa, Lydia, Charlie, and (my personal favorite) Tessa's neighbor Effie, who is dealing with incipient dementia.
A psychological novel that kept me enthralled from first to last. Highly recommended.
Psychological Mystery. July 28, 2015. Print length: 368 pages.