Black Eyed Susans
by Julie Heaberlin
published by Ballantine Books
I received and advance review copy of this book from the publisher through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
That cover! It totally caught my eye and piqued my interest. In this case, you can judge the book by the cover because the story inside is just as catching and captivating! This was a suspenseful, fast read that I didn’t want to put down. As with many books today, it is told in two parts: the past and the present of Tessa Cartwright. After she is found in a field of black eyed susans, the only living victim of a serial killer, Tessa struggles to cope with her experience. Despite having no recollection of the actual crime, prosecutors use her testimony to convict and sentence a man to death. Fast forward almost twenty years and Tess is now living a happy, if very sheltered life with her daughter. When she sees a fresh batch of the infamous flowers planted outside her bedroom window, she begins to fear the wrong man is about to be put to death. Agreeing to help the lawyers fighting for appeal, Tess struggle to open her mind, daring herself to remember the worst thing that has ever happened to her.
What I really enjoyed about this book was that it wasn’t as predictable as so many suspense novels out there. Tess wasn’t just a victim, she was a heroine in my eyes. The writing keeps you engaged and always a little surprised. If you enjoy a good suspense story this is a must read for you.
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.