I really loved this book! Black-Eyed Susans is one of those books that takes place in the the past and in the present and I couldn’t wait to see what happened in each time period. Usually there’s one story-line that I’m more interested in, but Julia Heaberlin makes the each time period section in this novel as compelling as the other. While on the face of it, this is a serial killer book, there is very little about the killing and much more about the characters and the aftermath of the crime. I would say this was a creepy, psychological book as opposed to some the the gruesome serial killer mysteries that I have read of late.
Sixteen -year old Tessie Cartwright is a happy teenage track star, in Fort Worth, Texas, when she is kidnapped. Nearly 30 hours later she is found, barely alive, in a ditch, in a field of black-eyed Susans. Based on 16-year old Tessie’s testimony, Terrell Goodwin is convicted and put on death row. Now, 20 years later and Tessa is a mother, with a teenage daughter. The man convicted of the Black Eyed Susan killings is about to be put to death. The only problem is, Tessa isn’t so sure now that the right killer is behind bars. Scared that the real serial killer may be free and that an innocent man might die, Tessa undergoes hypnosis with a psychiatrist to try to remember what really happened 20 years ago.
Little by little, Heaberlin reveals facts to the reader, like Tessa discovering the memories buried in her mind with the help of the hypnosis. This novel is filled with hidden facts: Who is terrorizing Tessa? If Terrell didn’t kill the girls who did? Where did Lydia, Tessie’s friend disappear to after the trial? All of these questions and more keep your mind whirling until the very end. Some have compared Heaberlin’s work to Gillian Flynn, saying both published impressive early works that were pretty much overlooked until current popular works called attention to their early projects. If you enjoyed Black-Eyed Susans check out Heaberlin’s previous book Playing Dead.