Posted in Books I have read

Black-Eyed Susans – Julia Heaberlin

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller

For those of you like me that have tired slightly of the serial killer plot line which appears in so much contemporary crime fiction, here is a book which has a completely different take on the subject.

Tessa is a survivor of said serial killer found broken but not dead alongside the body of a girl and some bones we first meet her in the present day deciding whether she is going to help with the case to reverse the death sentence against the man convicted of the crime, Terrell Darcy Goodwin. Tessa can’t remember what happened to her despite the help of an eminent doctor at the time of the original trial back in 1995, her memory remains elusive. The sessions between Tessa and her doctor in these days are reproduced in Tessa’s own words which not only gives the reader a real sense of growth in Tessa but also the background to her story.

Tessa wasn’t a popular outgoing girl, she is a committed runner with one best friend, Lydia. Lydia tries her hardest to bring normality back to Tessa’s life in the aftermath of her discovery, keeping her interested in the facts she acquires in much the way that a magpie collects trinkets. She is there lightening the load, helping Tessa when she becomes blind and generally being her one and only confidante. However, we soon realise that something happened between the two girls at around the time of the court case and Lydia is no longer part of Tessa’s life.  With plenty of other mysteries littering the pages, not least, who is planting the black-eyed susans in places where Tessa will find them, if the killer is in jail? It is this one that played on my mind the most.

The psychology of all the characters is the key to this book; dwelling on the specifics of the crime is kept to an absolute minimum leaving the way clear to examine the relationships detailed as well as the big issue of the death penalty.  Fear not though, this is not a book that preaches rather one that presents a story which feels authentic. Would Terrell be sitting in his death cell if her were a rich white man? From what little I know of justice in the US maybe, or maybe not? How humane is it to have someone contemplating their demise for so many years broken only by endless appeals? How many lives are taken in the name of justice which depend on circumstantial evidence alone? So as I say plenty to think about which made this book feel a step above light-entertainment.

All that cerebral activity doesn’t stop this from being a cracking good read though! The plot is complex and acutely paced. The tension rises, steeply in the second-half as we have the countdown to the execution day. Will the defence lawyers be able to provide the evidence, and are they right to do so? I began to piece together the events but only shortly before they had been fully spelt out on the page giving me the feeling that I had been given the clues – there is nothing worse than the reveal coming out of the blue!

This is a tense book with interesting and life-like characters, a book that looks at the complexity of justice and one that really deserves the moniker psychological thriller!

I received a copy of this book through Amazon Vine in return for this honest review. Black-Eyed Susans was published on 13 August 2015.


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

24 thoughts on “Black-Eyed Susans – Julia Heaberlin

  1. It sounds as though this one deals with some complex and important issues, Cleo, and raises some important questions. It’s good to hear, too, that the focus is on the psychology of the characters; I find that fascinating. Glad you enjoyed this.


  2. I must say this sounds good! I am fed up with serial killers but as you say this is coming at it from a fresh angle. And the whole death penalty thing in the US fascinates me – just as you mention, it’s not the actual death bit that bothers me as much as the years spent on death row. Hmm… I can feel my resistance weakening…


  3. I’m hearing wonderful things about this book. All the questions raised are valid and even the planting of flowers is intriguing. Looking forward to reading this one and seeing if I can puzzle things out.


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