Thursday, 13 August 2015

Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

A couple of months back I was thrilled to attend the UK Black Eyed Susans event and got to meet the lovely author herself. As I knew the book wasn’t due for release until this month, I saved it until now, although once I started it, I finished it in almost one whole sitting! 

We are introduced to two versions of the main character. There’s teenage Tessa who is the only survivor of a serial killer, who is having sessions with a doctor during the build-up to the trial of the man accused of the horrific crimes. 

There is also present day Tessa who is haunted by the emergence of black-eyed Susan flowers planted at her home which suggests that the wrong person is behind bars for the events that happened all those years ago. 

With the help of the lawyer working to get a seemingly innocent man freed from death row and a brilliant forensic scientist who is re-examining the evidence, Tessa strives to unravel the mystery once and for all in a deadly race against time. 

I think the use of such a vibrant yet creepily-named flower as the icon for the crimes in this book was sheer genius (and the cover looks great!).  I enjoyed the forensic investigation aspects of this book. The bone and DNA evidence was very fascinating, and I know that the author consulted a leading expert in this field, as well as many other specialists to make the narrative more realistic. 

There are parts about the significance of drawings as an aid to remembering traumatic / criminal experiences, which I especially liked as this was what my University dissertation was based on, so that gave me another level of attachment to the story. The use of the execution date for the present day scenes adds to the excitement as there is a very real deadline for all the players involved. 

As well as a brilliant premise, the writing style keeps you hooked and at times is quite unsettling. I think it takes a lot of skill to be able to unnerve a reader like that, so hats off to Julia for writing such a gripping and atmospheric story that had me jumping every time I heard an unexpected noise. 

This book will draw you in and have you second guessing yourself page after page. Black Eyed Susans is probably one of the most cunningly clever and gripping thrillers I’ve read in a long while and I would recommend this as one of my top reads of the year so far.

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