Release Date: August 11, 2015
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Mystery | Suspense
I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.
I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.
The lucky one.
As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.
Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—a summertime bloom—just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution. But the flowers alone are not proof enough, and the forensic investigation of the still-unidentified bones is progressing too slowly. An innocent life hangs in the balance. The legal team appeals to Tessa to undergo hypnosis to retrieve lost memories—and to share the drawings she produced as part of an experimental therapy shortly after her rescue.
What they don’t know is that Tessa and the scared, fragile girl she was have built a fortress of secrets. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.
Shocking, intense, and utterly original, Black-Eyed Susans is a dazzling psychological thriller, seamlessly weaving past and present in a searing tale of a young woman whose harrowing memories remain in a field of flowers—as a killer makes a chilling return to his garden.
I love serial killer myster-suspense novels. The guess work, the gore, the psychological trauma, the chase, the case, and every other thing that makes for a curious riddle, BLACK EYED SUSANS by Julia Haeberlin has. The mystery behind the killings hit me on different angles, it was fascinating to say the least, and this novel sure left me discombobulated. It goes without saying that I'm recommending you pick this up especially if you enjoy suspense-mysteries.
- BLACK-EYED SUSANS was told in alternating time frames, present day and 1995. I have to admit, it took me some time to get into JHaeberlin's style, but once I did it was a page-turning experience til the end.
- So the case has supposedly been solved back in '95 with the murderer on death row. After 20 years, Tessa's back on the case because she's the only survivor, and the man convicted is totally innocent! Can you imagine the guilt of putting the wrong person behind bars?! The nightmare that never ends because it means the real killer is still out there, lurking, watching, terrorizing Tessa with those darn black-eyed susans!?! (read the blurb)
- And there's the task of reopening the case, digging through evidence, digging through Tessa's psyche for things she'd rather forget, and the crusade for exonerating an innocent. The frustration of having the appeal turned down out of technicality. Very compelling angle, don't you agree?
- For about 80% of the novel, I was wondering how much of Tessa's testimony and recollections are real, and not some made-up tale to cope with the trauma. It was tricky to figure out because BLACK-EYED SUSANS made a big play on Tessa's mental state back in '95 and how much of that she's still carrying to this day.
- We don't really get a clear picture of HOW Tessa was abducted and the entirety of those days she went missing til she was found in a makeshift graveyard. The gruesomeness of the crime is told rather than shown, so it's not as gory as you'd expect. The flashbacks starts after Tessa's been recovered while the trial's started, and she's undergoing therapy. It also didn't help that Tessa forgot a lot of things that happened to her while in captivity. So even if she's the only survivor, she's not really a reliable witness. Also, I might have missed it, but I didn't quite catch the motive behind Tessa's abduction.
- And then there's Lydia. The best friend who's character is ambiguous at best.
I love JHaeberlin's gripping storytelling style not to mention BLACK-EYED SUSAN's editing is fantastic! Each chapter ends in some sort of a question mark, the answer withheld for another one, so we're constantly kept in suspense. The story getting curioser and curioser with each page. I suggest you read the excerpt below so you get a better grip of what I'm trying to say: