When she was sixteen years old, Tessa was only survivor of the Black-Eyed Susans killer. Dumped in a shallow grave with some of her fellow Susans, Tessa survive to testify against the man authorities believed was the killer. But over the years, Tessa always wondered if she helped convict the right man. As the convicted killer’s execution looms, Tessa is forced to question her role in the conviction and if the real killer is still lurking out there, taunting her with black-eyed Susans planted under her window.
Told in alternating time frames, Julia Heaberlin’s Black-Eyed Susans expertly doles out detail after detail of Tessa’s time in recovery and testifying and now as she tries to help an apparently innocent man avoid a wrongful execution. Heaberlin deftly sews each seed for the truth of what happened to Tessa and who was really behind her disappearance.
I’ll admit this one hooked me in the early stages. Tessa’s doubting of herself and her narrative (as well as her admission of her manipulating certain aspects of her therapy) made me question her reliability as a narrator. But this comes less from an agenda and more from wondering what Tessa is hiding from herself that may eventually come to light.
There are a couple of plausible explanations for what happened to Tessa and just if and how it ties into her family and her friendship with a girl named Lydia, who mysterious vanished after throwing Tessa under the bus on the witness stand. Heaberlin teases these details early and slowly builds up toward the revelation of what happened.
All the details of Black-Eyed Susans hang together very well. There are some interesting revelations as the book progresses and it’s fascinating to get inside Tessa’s head as we get to know her and find out about her experiences. The final revelations are well set up and just about everything from the book holds up in the final analysis.
Some things have meaning. Others don’t. And it’s interesting to see which details become important and which ones are not as important.
The added ticking of the clock as we count down to the alleged killer’s execution helps drive the story.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.