3 reviews

Black-Eyed Susans: A Novel of Suspense
by Julia Heaberlin

Published: 2015-08-11
Hardcover : 368 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 3 members
For fans of Laura Lippman and Gillian Flynn comes an electrifying novel of stunning psychological suspense.

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 ...
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For fans of Laura Lippman and Gillian Flynn comes an electrifying novel of stunning psychological suspense.

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.

Praise for Black-Eyed Susans

“A masterful thriller that shouldn’t be missed . . . brilliantly conceived, beautifully executed . . . [Julia] Heaberlin’s work calls to mind that of Gillian Flynn. Both writers published impressive early novels that were largely overlooked, and then one that couldn’t be: Flynn’s Gone Girl and now Heaberlin’s Black-Eyed Susans. Don’t miss it.”The Washington Post

“[A] gem of a novel . . . richly textured, beautifully written . . . Tension builds, and the plot twists feel earned as well as genuinely surprising.”The Boston Globe

“A tense, slow-burning, beautifully written novel of survival and hope. Highly recommended.”—William Landay, New York Times bestselling author of Defending Jacob

“Deliciously twisty and eerie, Heaberlin’s third psychological suspense novel is intricately layered and instantly compelling.”Library Journal (starred review)

“Brilliant . . . a breakout book.”Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“Heaberlin does a neat job, in Black-Eyed Susans, of making us care. . . . [She’s] a pro who strengthens her theme of judicial prejudice by referring to the O.J. Simpson trial and by drawing our attention to the morbid regularity of executions in Texas prisons.”The New York Times Book Review

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

Do you think the friendship between Lydia and Tessie was a healthy one?
What did you make of the forensic science that seems to prove that we are indeed made up of the dust of the earth?
Were you suprised by the ending?
by kimloves2read (see profile) 07/04/16

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

"Closure is a myth...but there is value in knowing"
by kimloves2read (see profile) 07/04/16
Tessie is the 15 year old survivor of the Black Eyed Susan serial killer. She goes out for a run and is found in black eyed susan covered pit half dead, with other bodies and bones. The killer thought she was dead too because she had an unusual heart condition which beat at a slower than normal rate and was capable of going even slower without her dying. She is so traumatized but what has happened to her she temporarily goes blind. Her best friend, Lydia, her physciatrist and the prosecutors team try to help her regain her memories of what happened and convict their suspect. Tessa is the grown up Tessie who is trying to make a life for herself and her daughter. We learn early on that Tessa is plagued with doubt about the killer and has been approached by one of the legal defense organizations that try to overturn death penalty convictions for people wrong convicted for crimes that did not commit. Among the reasons she is not sure is that someone has been planting black eyed susans in different places that are meaningful to her. The latest is outside her bedroom window on the eve of her birthday. Tessa reluctantly agrees to help the defense lawyers team because she wants to put an end to this once and for all. Could her "monster" still be out there? Watching her? And her daughter? Or is he safely tucked behind bars with a looming death sentence to be carried out in a matter of weeks? The story switches between her younger Tessie self and her older Tessa self. As Tessie we learn about her friendship with Lydia and how Lydia tries to help Tessie recover. What Tessie was like before and after the traumatic event. As Tessa we learn how the event has shaped her life and decisions. Without giving a way the climax, the serial murder is not who I thought it was or who the story seems to be sending your way.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Reena R. (see profile) 09/01/19

by jenn d. (see profile) 11/09/18

by Tracy T. (see profile) 05/15/18

by Zoe R. (see profile) 04/16/18

  "Very well written suspenesful but not scary story of a teenage survivor of a serial kills life "by Kim K. (see profile) 07/04/16

I liked this book. It is addictive, suspenseful but not really scary. There are times that the jumps between present day and the past are jarring. It's important to note the dates and the b... (read more)

  "Most members liked it quite a lot"by Cheryl C. (see profile) 03/16/16

Most members liked it for the suspense and drama. A few thought it lagged in places and that the ending sewed everything up too quickly as if the author felt rushed to finish. At least one member hated... (read more)

by Susan H. (see profile) 01/07/16

  "Fantastic Psychological Thriller!"by Jennifer L. (see profile) 08/15/15

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 daught... (read more)

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