Black-Eyed Susans

Finished Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin.

Summary (from 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.”

Black-Eyed Susans has been recommended for fans of Gillian Flynn and Laura Lippman, and that is a pretty worthy comparison.  (As you know, I love both.)  So my expectations going in were incredibly high.

We go back and forth in time, with Tessa (as a grownup) and Tessie (as a kid, shortly after being rescued).  We don’t ever really learn exactly what happened while she was taken, but the pieces we do know are certainly horrific enough.

Of course, it turns out there’s a lot we don’t know.

This is the kind of book that’s nearly impossible to put down.  I loved the characters and the concept.  Best of all, though, is the fact that we don’t know who or where the threat is coming from—or even if there IS a threat.

This book kept me guessing the whole way.

Highly recommended.

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