Black-eyed Susans by American writer Julia Heaberlin is the story of Tessa, the sole survivor of a multiple crime that took place in Texas in 1995. Back then Tessa was 16, went by Tessie, spent her time running (she was in the track team) and with her friend Lydia. She had a normal life until one day she wakes up after someone dumped her in an almost dead state along with bones and corpses of other girls in a field covered with black-eyed susans. A man was convicted and sentenced to death for the crime.
Flash forward to the present, the “killer’s” execution date is near. After all the therapy and time Tessa is scared when someone plants black-eyed Susans outside her bedroom window. She is not sure the man convicted is the real criminal and fears the killer is still out there, haunting her. And so we begin reading her flashbacks to her memories from the time after the crime, therapy, the trial, etc. as Tessa finally tries to face the truth about what really happened.
I was attracted by the title of this book and the cover. More about this in the full review on my blog.
The premise of this book is intriguing but the way it was executed confused me. My issues with the book were:
- The going back and forth in time.
- I felt like I had been reading for hours but nothing added up. It took too long, almost halfway through the book for me to feel like I was really invested in the story.
- I don’t agree with the blurb because this was not a shocking and intense read for me. It wasn’t that dazzling of a psychological thriller either. Yes it has some suspenseful moments that make you guess and try to figure out who the killer is, but to say it was dazzling is a bit too much. It is a good book in theory; I just think it could have been better.
- At times it felt like I was reading young adult fiction rather than adult fiction, especially when reading Tessa’s flashbacks from her teenage years.
- My main issue with this book is that there were loose ends, and I don’t like loose ends in my books. This book left me not knowing EXACTLY what happened to Tessa, it is never stated clearly. And then there’s Lydia, there’s a lot about her that the reader is left not knowing.
I explain these issues on the full review on my blog.
Black-eyed Susans is a puzzle that the reader has to slowly solve. Each chapter is a puzzle piece, you can’t skip any or you’ll have an incomplete puzzle in the end.
What I really enjoyed was all the forensic science mentioned in the book. I wasn’t aware of how advanced the methods for solving these types of crimes are. I was pleased to learn about mitochondrial DNA and its application to identify murder victims. I didn’t know what geochemistry was. I think it rocks! Like the author I also understand more than ever that we are the earth. All this scientific mambo-jumbo-to-some is what I happily take from this book.
In the end, Black-eyed Susans wasn’t about suspense, mystery or crime solving. In my humble opinion it was more about friendship, and the effects of jealousy, rivalry and deception on it. It is also a book about letting go of the negative things/relationships/problems/memories from your past. Learning to not give them the power over us is a hard process but it can be done. We can’t let our sanity held hostage by them. Only when you stop dragging them around, when you truly let go, you are free.
Black-eyed Susans is an OK read. A book to read in the last weeks of summer that we have left. If you’re into books about unsolved crimes, psyco-killers, dark secrets and mystery this is the book for you. If you like suspense novels this is the book for you. If you like books about dark friendships and unexpected final twists this is the book for you. If you like black-eyed susans, I bet you are going to think of this book every time you see one after reading this book. If you like Snicker’s bars, all the talk about them will probably leave you craving one or two after you read this book. I would recommend you to read it with a stash of Snicker’s bars or snickerdoodle cookies. :P