Friday, October 6, 2017

Black-eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Goodreads Summary:

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.

What I liked:

The book springs back and forth between Tessa at present day as she's trying to figure out how to help Terrell get a new hearing so he doesn't get executed for the crime she's sure he didn't commit, and the Tessa (Tessie) a year after she was found and how the trial went that convicted Terrell in the first place.

The book builds the suspense as we get closer and closer to the end. The breaks between past and present are shorter and quicker. It was an interesting way to build.

What I didn't like:

The back and forth was a little incomplete overall. We only got tidbits of her best friend Lydia who was there for the young Tessie. We know something happened between them but we aren't sure what. So I didn't quite get to know Tessie or Tessa. And therefore it was harder to care about her much.

The author also adds a little epilogue that keeps up some of the suspense. But I felt it didn't work for how the story was built and finished. It was unnecessary.

Overall, it was a quick mystery read. I did like her thoughts on trauma and how we deal with it.


  1. This sounds like a really intriguing mystery. I love suspense reads - especially this time of year!

  2. I did enjoy this one quite a lot, overall; but felt like the ending was a bit of a let down.

  3. Yes, a quick and fun mystery. Unlike others, I wasn't let down by the ending. Interesting study of memory and the tricks it can play.


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