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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Review: BLACK EYED SUSANS, Julia Heaberlin

Black Eyed Susans, by Julia Heaberlin. Review by Barbara Copperthwaite

“Made me want to go back to the start and read it all over again”


A chilling new thriller that gets into the heart and mind of the killer, and the victim . . .

Seventeen-year-old Tessa, dubbed a 'Black-Eyed Susan' by the media, became famous for being the only victim to survive the vicious attack of a serial killer. Her testimony helped to put a dangerous criminal behind bars - or so she thought.

Now, decades later the black-eyed susans planted outside Tessa's bedroom window seem to be a message from a killer who should be safely in prison.

Haunted by fragmented memories of the night she was attacked and terrified for her own teenage daughter's safety, can Tessa uncover the truth about the killer before it's too late?


A compelling and different take on a serial killer book, both told from the same person’s point of view – but decades apart.

First there is Tessie, the teenager struggling to deal with the immediate aftermath of being the lone survivor found in a pile of girls’ remains. Then there is Tessa, now grown up with a teenage daughter of her own, but still so haunted by what happened to her. The brilliance of the writing is that the two versions both work as the same character, but there are also enough differences for you to believe the span of years that has passed. Their voices are strong, intelligent, and cleverly done.

Both versions of the victim are well rounded, authentic, with good and bad traits. This is not a perfect character. But she is trying so hard to remember what happened to her, and the result is masterful.

Further tension is added with a race against time to get to the truth before the death sentence is carried out on the convicted felon. Is he innocent or guilty? This may be an old ploy, but it is still cleverly done.

There are clues and red herrings all the way through the novel, and I was trying to decipher them right from the start. This is a slow, brilliantly-drawn, character-led tale. It creates a wonderful tension as it flits between past and present, revealing breadcrumbs of clues for the reader to follow, as Tessa tries to piece together her own fractured memories to solve the puzzle.

Black Eyed Susans is a chilling and evocative piece of writing with a conclusion that is clever, shocking and dastardly. It made me want to go back to the start and read it all over again from my new perspective. I absolutely loved it, and would definitely recommend it as a must read.

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