Review of “Black-Eyed Susans” by Julia Heaberlin

This is a serial-killer thriller that is a bit unusual in that it begins after the serial killings end, and we really never hear (thankfully) the gory details of how the serial killings were accomplished. This doesn’t mean the book isn’t very scary, however.


Tessa Cartwright was 16 when she was found barely alive in a Texas field covered in black-eyed Susans. The body and bones of other victims were heaped around her.

Although Tessa couldn’t remember anything about what happened, a black man in the area was arrested and convicted soon after the crime took place and now sits on death row. But Tessa isn’t convinced they caught the right man; someone has been planting black-eyed Susans under her windows out of season since then.

The story weaves back and forth in time between 1995, a year after Tessa was attacked, and the present day, seventeen years later. Tessa is now 34, with a 14-year-old daughter named Charlie, and Tessa is increasingly afraid that whoever her attacker really was will now want to come after her daughter. She is working with an altruistic legal team trying to save her alleged attacker from his upcoming execution by trying to figure out who really did kill the “Black-eyed Susans,” as the victims became known.

But as the countdown to the execution gets closer, it doesn’t look like they will be able to find a breakthrough in the case. And at the same time, there are more and more signs that the real perpetrator is zeroing in on Tessa and her life once again.

Evaluation: This book scared me something fierce, without being gory or gruesome. There was a moment when I thought I knew who the killer was, but (a) since I never guess anything and (b) since I fell hook, line, and sinker for the red herrings, I dismissed my suspicions. And besides, even had I known that I might have correctly guessed who it was, I still wouldn’t have been prepared for the big surprise at the ending.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House, 2015


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4 Responses to Review of “Black-Eyed Susans” by Julia Heaberlin

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I’m so glad you liked this as much as I did!

  2. This sounds awesome! I saw it around and I was really curious about it. I am going to check it out.

  3. Bellezza says:

    I have heard such good things about this, and being in a mood for thrillers lately, I’m ready to pluck it from my shelf now. Loved your review.

  4. litandlife says:

    I like this one a lot, too. Just goes to show that you don’t have to be gory and “show” everything to scare the hell out of readers.

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