Title: Black-Eyed Susans
Author: Julia Heaberlin
Genre: Mystery, psychological thriller, adult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.
I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.
The lucky one.
As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.
Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—a summertime bloom—just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution. But the flowers alone are not proof enough, and the forensic investigation of the still-unidentified bones is progressing too slowly. An innocent life hangs in the balance. The legal team appeals to Tessa to undergo hypnosis to retrieve lost memories—and to share the drawings she produced as part of an experimental therapy shortly after her rescue.
What they don’t know is that Tessa and the scared, fragile girl she was have built a fortress of secrets. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.
Shocking, intense, and utterly original, Black-Eyed Susans is a dazzling psychological thriller, seamlessly weaving past and present in a searing tale of a young woman whose harrowing memories remain in a field of flowers—as a killer makes a chilling return to his garden.
I really like psychological mysteries because I find it fascinating how our own minds can play tricks on us. I love books with unreliable narrators, and Tessa is definitely one of those. She's manipulative and withholds the truth about her past from everyone, even distorting her own memories.
When Tessa was 16, she was kidnapped and left to die in a pile of other kidnapped and murdered girls. Together, all of thsoe girls were known as the Black-Eyed Susans, and years later the alledged murderer is arrested and on death row.
But what if the real killer is still at large?
This book is really twisted, especially since the main character refuses to try and unearth her memories of a traumatic incident. She hides from the truth because she doesn't want to deal with the guilt of having the wrong man executed, and she also doesn't want to relive her trauma. Tessa has therapists and psychologists, but she's a masterful manipulator. She tells people what she wants them to hear, and makes up stories instead of revealing the truth.
I really enjoyed trying to separate the stories from the truth and figuring out the mystery. I thought the ending was pretty unpredictable. Although I can't say there was enough foreshadowing to make me go "aha, that makes sense now!", I thought the mystery ended well.
I definitely recommend this book for people who like unreliable narrators and psychological mysteries!
*A free copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*