Black Eyed Susans

blcover62271-mediumAuthor: Julia Heaberlin

Publisher: Random House – Ballantine

Rating: 5 stars

Buy Links: Random House and Amazon

Type: Novel

Provided by Publisher


Blurb: For fans of Laura Lippman and Gillian Flynn comes an electrifying novel of stunning psychological suspense.

A girl’s memory lost in a field of wildflowers.
A killer still spreading seeds.

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?


Review: This chilling novel about the only surviving victim of a serial killer switches between the forgotten past and the immediate present in a frightening juxtaposition of fear, insanity and suspense–while the minutes tick down on the life of the man convicted of the murders. This novel combines emotional dissonance with flashbacks of memory that disturb and provoke the characters to behave in bizarre ways that only make sense at the final, pivotal moment. Truly a mystery that defies description.

The executioner waits for no man, and Tessa’s guilt over her role in convicting what may have been an innocent man tips her into a last minute run through her muddled memories of the darkest time of her life and into a search for a friend who might not have been as loyal as she thought. As she works with a team of anti-death row activists to not only search her memories but try to find the real killer that she’s afraid has been haunting her for years, she starts receiving notes from a stranger that taunt her with memories of her childhood best friend Lydia Bell, who disappeared right after the trial.

Is it normal to talk to the dead? And why does she fear remembering what happened to her while she was missing? It’s not bad enough that she’s got to protect herself and her teenage daughter from the crazies surrounding the whole situation, but now her eighty-something year old neighbor has brought a whole new level of crazy to the table with her missing earth diggers. How much crazy can Tessa handle, and what fears are actually real and what is she imagining? Throw in a soldier ex-boyfriend and a new lawyer love and you’ve got a mixed up soup of testosterone and aggression surrounding an already confused situation where the past and the present coalesce into a foggy cloud of confusion.

The writing is precise and bold, with the author leading you in increasing circles that don’t make any sense until you get to the very end when you pull back and see the larger picture–and then it makes a terrible symmetry. Things fall rapidly into place and the horror is write large as it dawns in your mind. How macabre and twisted that life must have been, and the very last sentence plays a sinister refrain even now in my mind. How lucky Tessie was.

Bravo, Ms. Heaberlin.

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