Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
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.
First off I want to say that I listened to the audio version of this. I was going on a road trip and an audio book is must have for those. I liked the narrator a lot. That's always important to me when listening to a book. I can be very picky about audio books, most of the time I will sample a book before I buy it. I can usually tell right away if I'm going to like a narrator or if the narrator is going to ruin the book for me. I sampled quite a few books before deciding on this one.
Black-Eyed Susans is a psychological thriller. If you look at my history with these, most of them end up being 3 star reads. However, there are a few that have made it to 4 stars and this is one of them. I think mostly what disappoints me with these type of books is that they end up being either too predictable or not thrilling enough. While I wouldn't say this one is extra thrilling or anything, what I did like about it was that it kept me guessing for a little while. I also ended up really liking the way the book was constructed, alternating between past and present.
At sixteen Tessa Cartwright was abducted and then left buried in a field with a dead girl and a bunch of bones. Tessa is found barely alive after clawing her way out of the dirt. Because of the wildflowers growing around the grave, the press started referring to the girls as Black-Eyed Susans and Tessie (as she was called then) is the lone surviving Black-Eyed Susan.
We skip back and forth from the present (almost 2 decades later) to the past after Tessie was found. In the present Tessa is raising her own teenage daughter and is working with a forensic anthropologist to try and learn who the other dead girls were and unravel other clues that might exonerate the man who was convicted of the crimes, a man Tessa believes is innocent, because since the trial almost two decades before someone has been leaving black-eyed susans for her to find. I enjoyed the forensic anthropology parts of the book. The things they learn about the dead girls through their bones were really quite fascinating and I read that the author did a lot of research and consulted with a forensic anthropologist while writing the book.
As for the characters, Tessie and her best friend Lydia and the neighbor lady, Effie who is going senile (the missing diggers was such a funny thing) were the best ones in the book. Lydia was one mystery that kept me guessing throughout most of the book. Why she disappeared from Tessie's life and what caused the falling out they seemed to have had were at the forefront. At first I thought Lydia may not even be real, but there were a lot of things that I wondered about and if they were real or not. The love interest was kind of meh. While he otherwise played an interesting role in the book, I didn't really care about how he was written as a love interest. Just like Tessa in the story, I still don't think I know anything about the guy other than what he does with his job. I would have liked to have seen a bit more development there before the end of the book.
Who the killer was that abducted Tessie was a huge mystery that kept me guessing almost until the end. I found it rather clever, but maybe not quite as plausible as it could have been. There was not enough explanation as to how some things were manipulated for me. Overall I liked most things about this book though. This is a stand-alone that wraps up pretty nicely for the most part, although I still have a few unanswered questions about the time Tessa was abducted. I am interested in reading more from this author.
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