The latest First Reads Goodreads giveaway book this pedometer geek reader read was the paperback edition of Julia Heaberlin’s novel, Black-Eyed Susans. This is her third novel, but it is the first of this author’s works read. Nor will it be the last. This is the extended review.
By Julia Heaberlin
Published by Ballantine Books, 2016
An imprint of Random House,
A division of Penguin Random House, LLC
Black-Eyed Susans is a suspense novel that doesn’t quit until the very last page. Although the story started out a bit slow to begin with, the tale becomes more intense as it continues, making the reader race through the pages toward a rather twisty conclusion. Told through the perspective of the events of now and then (1995), Tessa Cartwright tells her story of being nearly buried alive alongside the bones of several other young girls in a field of black-eyed Susans. Labeled the “lucky” Susan for the fact that she survived, Tessa’s testimony helps put away the man who is on Death Row and about to be executed.
But did he do it? Now a mother of a teen, Tessa is having conversations with the other “Susans” and her best friend has disappeared. Working with her current therapist, the lawyer who works on Death Row reversals, and the forensics scientist studying the DNA of the bones of the girls, she thinks the monster who abducted her is still out there since she has had too many odd things, related to the crime, happen to her. From the mysterious planting of black-eyed Susans in her front yard to vicious notes, Tessa worries that the killer is at-large. She also worries about the safety of her daughter Charlie, who is about the same age as she and those other young girls were when they were taken by the killer, whom she calls my monster.
Spending time with a psychologist may unlock the secrets of the past, for she doesn’t remember much about her abduction until the time she was found barely alive. It is almost as if she has amnesia. Moreover, there was a period of time when she went (temporarily) blind. Even now, years later, there are too many things that don’t add up, and time is ticking down toward Terrell’s execution.
This is a psychological drama with much of the action seen only through the eyes of Tessa and what she is willing to share with her therapists and her best friend Lydia. Unfortunately, suddenly Lydia disappears leaving Tessa with more unresolved questions than ever.
Can Tessa figure out what happened so many years ago in order to save the man who is sitting on Death Row? And also can she protect her daughter from outside forces which may be related to past events including her monster? Will she ever know what happened to Lydia?
These are just a few of the mysteries, which eventually get revealed, of this suspenseful read. The story is complex as are the characters. It will make the reader think about the emerging science of forensics as well as those who work to exonerate those unjustly convicted felons on Death Row.
This reader looks forward to checking out the author’s other two novels: Lie Still and Playing Dead. Based on this one, I can only imagine the twisted turns they will take.