Monday, August 10, 2015

ARC Review & Excerpt ~ Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Rating: 5/5 Stars
Author: Julia Heaberlin 
Available Formats: eBook, Paperback, Hardback, Audio
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: 08-11-15                Pages: 369
Purchase ~ Amazon                               Add ~ Goodreads
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.

My So-Called Review: 
Black-Eyed Susans is the first book I’ve read by Julia Heaberlin and when I read the synopsis, advertising it as a novel “For fans of Laura Lippman and Gillian Flynn comes an electrifying novel of stunning psychological suspense” I knew I had to read it. I know what you’re thinking, what books these days aren’t advertised as being similar to Gone Girl or Girl on the Train? And you’re totally right except that Black-Eyed Susans actually lives up to that comparison! Even though this is a very different story I was often reminded of Dark Places (my favorite of Flynn’s books) while reading it so if you enjoyed that one then may I suggest that you run, not walk no your nearest book store or computer to buy this book!

From the opening pages with their dark, creepy vibe I was totally sucked into this story. Tessa Cartwright is one of those characters you can’t help but love. Yes she was your typical over achieving teenager who earned straight A’s, was a star on the track field and had a wonderful relationship with her little brother and best friend Lydia but all that changed before her 17th birthday went she went missing and was later found in a shallow grave along with a recently deceased body of another girl and a pile of bones. Tessa had no memory of what happened to her in those missing hours or who her attacker was but through the help of her latest therapist and her best friend Lydia she finds the courage to get on the stand and testify. Terrell Goodwin, the man arrested and charged with the crimes, was subsequently sentenced to the death penalty.

Fast forward 18 years and Terrell is now about to be executed and Tessa still isn’t convinced he’s the Black-Eyed Susans killer. Over the years she’s received strange gifts and reminders that lead Tessa to believe that the real killer could still be out there and is now toying with her, trying to get her to question her sanity and quite frankly, she’s terrified. Tessa starts working with a group of lawyers and forensic scientists who re-try old cases using current DNA identification technology. Despite all this, she still can’t remember what happened to her or who is responsible and her main priority now is to keep her teenage daughter safe and out of the grasps of a killer who’s possibly still on the loose. The narrative shifts back and forth between 1995 when Tessa is working with her final therapist before the trail, to the present day as Tessa works to find clues and decipher the truth about what really happened.

Blacked-Eyed Susans is a phenomenal, fast-paced psychological thriller that I couldn’t put down, not even once. As soon as I started it I knew I was in trouble and quickly bribed my daughter’s boyfriend to go pick up pizza for dinner, I knew I’d be pulling an all-nighter J And they mystery behind the killer? Well of course I’m not going to give that away or give any clues for that matter but I will say that I had a theory at about the 30% mark. Then as the story moved towards the 75% mark I saw another potential theory start to unfold but I was still pretty certain that I’d already figured it out, that my original theory was right. Now, I’m not going to share with you whether or not I got it right because it’s seriously best to go into this one with as little info as possible and to form your own theory. I will tell you though that I was just blown away by this book and I can’t wait to read one of Heaberlin’s previous books. I’d also love to know if Heaberlin has teenage daughters of her own because each one; young Tessa, young Lydia and Charlie, Tessa’s daughter, were written beautifully and totally spot on!

This is absolutely a book I’d recommend to anyone who loves an original, fast-paced psychological thriller. This would also make a great Book Club choice if your members are into reading thrillers! And just like the book advertises; if you love authors like Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman and I’m going to include a personal fav, Lisa Unger then you’ll love Black-Eyed Susans, just be prepared to get absolutely nothing done around your house for at least 24 hours!

A huge thank you to the publishers, Penguin Random House and to NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary, advanced reading copy of this book!

Book Excerpt:

Thirty-two hours of my life are missing.

   My best friend, Lydia, tells me to imagine those hours like old clothes in the back of a dark closet. Shut my eyes. Open the door. Move things around. Search.

   The things I do remember, I’d rather not. Four freckles. Eyes that aren’t black but blue, wide open, two inches from mine. Insects gnawing into a smooth, soft cheek. The grit of the earth in my teeth. Those parts, I remember.

   It’s my seventeenth birthday, and the candles on my cake are burning.

   The little flames are waving at me to hurry up. I’m thinking about the Black-Eyed Susans, lying in freezing metal drawers. How I scrub and scrub but can’t wash away their smell no matter how many showers I take.

   Be happy.

   Make a wish.

   I paste on a smile, and focus. Everyone in this room loves me and wants me home.

   Hopeful for the same old Tessie.

   Never let me remember.

   I close my eyes and blow.


  1. The cover of this book looks so intriguing! Can't wait to check it out on Goodreads! Great review!

    Alex @ The Book's Buzz

    1. The cover definitely drew me into this one Alex! Thanks for checking out my review and I hope you get a chance to read this one, it's fantastic!!

  2. I recently read this one and loved it! Dark Places is probably my favorite Gillian Flynn book and I agree with the comparison. And the ending was crazy shocking. I did not see it coming!