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Monday, May 11, 2015

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

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.

NetGalley/Random House/Ballentine

Psychological Mystery.  July 28, 2015.  Print length:  368 pages.

18 comments:

  1. Memory... What a slippery slope...

    It certainly sounds like a gripping book...

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    1. Several slippery memory slopes in this one!

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  2. Ooh, I am so psyched now! I just received this from Netgalley a couple of days ago! Definitely being pushed up in the order to read. Thanks for a great review, Jen.

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    1. I hope you like it as much as I did!

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  3. I skimmed your review, Jenclair, as I have this one coming up on my TBR pile to read. I am glad you liked it. :-) I read another of Julia Heaberlin's books awhile back and really liked it. I have high hopes for this one.

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    1. I am certainly going to read more by Heaberlin! I've already put her previous books on my wishlist!

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  4. I love when a novel can be suspenseful and intense without being graphic. Psychological thrillers are one of my favorite kinds of books to read, and I can't wait to get my hands on this one. :) Great review!

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    1. I love authors who can give you suspense without depending on blood and gore. I hope you will enjoy this one--I'm eager to see if others enjoy it as much as I did!

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  5. I'm looking forward to this one too. And I think I might already have a previous book by this author. So glad this was a good one.

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    1. It is hard to review Black-Eyed Susans without spoilers, but it certainly kept me enthralled!

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  6. This sounds very good! I'm adding this to my wishlist! Thanks for the great review, Jenclair! :)

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    1. Heaberlin does a great job of keeping you off-balance. Tessa is an intriguing character!

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  7. Great review! I'm so intrigued. I love it when a writer doesn't have to rely on blood & gore to shock the reader. It's not that I can't read that kind of stuff but I just feel like they could do better. This definitely sounds like a must read!

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    1. I know, I read the blood and gore stuff as well--usually thinking the author should have had more confidence in the characters and the plot and let them carry the novel. Heaberlin avoids the trend and focuses on the characters while keeping the reader unsure about who should be trusted.

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  8. Wow, you have really piqued my interest in this one! I'll add it to my list.

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    1. It would make a great film, Irene!

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  9. This sounds really good and just like something that I would enjoy. I'll have to make a note and go look it up - not difficult to remember the name at least - I love Black Eyed Susans!
    Lynn :D

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  10. I have a draft ready for closer to the publication date to remind me to mention it again. :) I love Black Eyed Susans, too, and sunflowers!

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