Title: Black-Eyed Susans
Author: Julia Heaberlin
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Release Date: March 2016
My Rating: 8/10 Solid
Seventeen-year-old Tessa, dubbed a ‘Black-Eyed Susan’ by the media, became famous for being the only victim to survive the vicious attack of a serial killer. Her testimony helped to put a dangerous criminal behind bars – or so she thought.
Now, decades later the black-eyed susans planted outside Tessa’s bedroom window seem to be a message from a killer who should be safely in prison.
Haunted by fragmented memories of the night she was attacked and terrified for her own teenage daughter’s safety, can Tessa uncover the truth about the killer before it’s too late?
This was a good thriller. A solid thriller. A quote on the front of the book says “A thriller to remember why you love thrillers” and that is absolutely spot on. I’ve read a lot of thrillers lately that I’ve been disappointed with, and this has recindled my love for them. I don’t want to pretend it was perfect, or that I didn’t have a few issues with it, because I did. But it was very well written, with a gripping and suitably creepy plot. It’s been a while since a book frightened me, or even shocked me for that matter, but this book managed to do both.
This is a book about a serial killer and his victim, and is very cleverly handled. The characters are perfectly placed to keep you guessing all the way through, and the narrative is such that we never quite know what’s going on. Tessa hints at things without fully explaining them, adding suspense and intrigue. Nobody can be trusted and that what makes this such a good thriller. The dual narratives between present day Tessa, and the younger Tessie in conversation with her therapist, helps to add mystery. We are constantly flipping between past and present, learning snippets of information each time; constantly trying to put the pieces together.
I really enjoyed the scientific elements too. We learn a lot about the different forensic processes of DNA identification that is used in old cases like this. Although these moments are quite detailed, they are told through the eyes of Tessa, who is also a novice in this area, and therefore never strays away from the interesting into the confusing. The identification of the other Susans plays a major role in the plot, and this adds another layer to the intrigue; it is not simply your typical murder mystery. I’m glad the investigation is mainly led by the authorities. Although Tessa does investigate some things on her own, she leaves it mostly upto the professionals, therefore making the story more believable.
If anything, I think there could have been more gore. We are never actually told the specifics of what happened to each of the Black-eyed Susans, other than Tessie, and I feel that would have improved the book. That makes me sound like a really sick person, but I’d rather an author really go for it with this sort of plot. As a reader, I feel I would have been more shocked when we discover who the murderer is, if we knew more of the gory details. It would also have rounded off the story more. I was left wanting slightly by the ending, as I felt there could have been a much bigger ‘reveal’ section.
I have to say though, I finished this book over a week ago and although I thought it would, it hasn’t really stuck in my mind. It definitely had the creepiness and suspense thing going on, but it did fail to grab me with a big twist. I had all but guessed who the murderer was by about halfway through, although I did change my mind once or twice. A week later, I have completely stopped thinking about it, and I did consider lowering my rating to 7/10, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It’s probably more of a 7.5, as I’m not sure I can quite put it in the same category as many of the other books I’ve rated 8/10. Maybe some of those should actually be 9/10? Maybe I need to rethink my ratings system?
I did really enjoy reading it though, and it has definitely reaffirmed my love of thrillers. It doesn’t attempt to use the success of other thrillers that many books are doing at the moment, but instead, is very good in its own right.
Although certainly not the best thriller I’ve read recently, it is well worth a read. Perfect for readers who like to be completely creeped out and engaged in the twists and turns of a grisly thriller. I am definitely looking forward to the next book by Julia Heaberlin.