Review and Giveaway: BLACK-EYED SUSANS by Julia HeaberlinBlack-Eyed Susans: A Novel of Suspense by Julia Heaberlin
Published by Random House Publishing Group on August 11th 2015
Pages: 368
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers, Suspense, Contemporary Women, Psychological
eARC provided by Copy provided by publisher via NetGalley

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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.

Reading time 4 mins

Hitting on everything thrillers should be made of, Black-Eyed Susans goes into my top 10 reads ever. I loved the tone of this story and the creep factor. Fans of suspense will not want to miss this one.

Tessie is the only survivor of the Black-Eyed Susan killer. At 16, she woke up in a grave with two other dead girls. She is made to testify against the man all the evidence points to, a man named Terrell. Without a clear memory of the crimes committed against her, Tessie can’t be sure. Years later, Tessie has a daughter of her own. Terrell is about to be executed. She has been subtly tormented into thinking that her would-be killer might still free. Freshly planted Black-Eyed Susans show up everywhere she goes. Buried clues become unearthed. She might be crazy, but Tessie can’t shake the thought that she helped convict the wrong man.

This read was so addictive. I thought I would read a page or two, just to gauge the writing style. Two hundred pages later I realized I would have to just see it though. I could not put this book down. In only Tessie’s POV, we flip from a time right before the trial for Terrell’s conviction, to a countdown to Terrell’s execution years later. The chapters end on a kind of cliffhanger, so I found no safe stopping place. Tessie in her youth had a friend named Lydia. Lydia killed me with her encyclopedic facts and unpredictable behavior. She was really instrumental in Tessie’s recovery. I missed her right along with Tessie in the present day.

Tessie is unsafe throughout this whole story. Come to think of it, non of us are safe. The term “wolf in sheep’s clothing” comes to mind. It really affected me and I felt a bit of unease for days after reading this. The dynamic of this former victim having a daughter now about the same age as she was is chilling. There is something really special about the pace of this story that kept me so engaged. There wasn’t a part of this tale that I could say dragged at all. Because throughout the whole story we are being led somewhere, I got the feeling that everything was important. The dialogue in this story is just so damn good. Tessie was a realistic and relateable character for me. I thought her reaction to the situation was totally believable.

Basically, I just loved this tale. It was really suspenseful but it also struck a nerve for me. This is the kind of story I will be thinking about for a while, comparing future reads to. It has set a new standard for reading that engages me. I highly recommend this read for those who love a good thriller.

My Rating




Thirty-two hours of my life are missing.

My best friend, Lydia, tells me to imagine those hours like old clothes in the back of a dark closet. Shut my eyes. open the door. Move things around. Search.

The things I do remember, I’d rather not. Hour freckles. Eyes that aren’t black but blue, wide open, two inches from mine. Insects gnawing into a smooth, soft cheek. The grit of the earth in my teeth. those parts, I remember.

It’s my seventeenth birthday, and the candles on my cake are buring.

the little flames are waving at me to hurry up. I’m thinking about te Black-Eyed Susans, lying in freezing metal drawers. How I scrub and scrub but can’t wash away their smell no mater how many showers I take.

Be happy.

Make a wish.

I paste on a smile, and focus. Everyone in this room loves me and wants me home.

Hopeful for the same old tessie.

Never let me remember.

I close my eyes and blow.

About Julia Heaberlin

Julia Heaberlin is an award-winning journalist who has worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Detroit News and The Dallas Morning News. Before launching her career as an author, she was an assistant managing editor over features sections at large metropolitan newspapers. Many of those sections won national and state journalism awards. The Star-Telegram Life & Arts section was named as one of the Top 10 sections in the country during her tenure. She has edited real-life thriller stories that inform her writing, including a series on the perplexing and tragic murders of random girls and women buried in the desert in Mexico and another on the frightened women of domestic violence. She lives with her husband and son in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where she is a free-lance writer and is at work on her fourth book.


Enter to win a copy of Black-Eyed Susans for yourself! This contest ends on 8/20/15 at 1155pm EST. This contest is sponsored by Random House. Please see my disclosure page.

I received this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links. This review is in compliance with the FTC guidelines.

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