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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Black Eyed Susans

Black Eyed Susans

ISBN: 9780804177993

Publisher: Random House/Ballantine

Publication Date: 8/11/2015

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars

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

A girl's memory lost in a field of wildflowers. A killer still spreading seeds.

At seventeen, Tessa became famous for being the only surviving victim of a vicious serial killer. Her testimony put him on death row. Decades later, a mother herself, she receives a message from a monster who should be in prison. Now, as the execution date rapidly approaches, Tessa is forced to confront a chilling possibility: Did she help convict the wrong man?

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Julia heaberlin

About the Author

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. Website Twitter Facebook Goodreads

My Review

A special thank you to Random House- Ballantine and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Yeah! So delighted to be hosting a Book Giveaway Contest on behalf of Random House, August 11-18 for a chance to win a complimentary copy (1 of 3) of the much awaited, BLACK EYED SUSANS.

A complex, multi-layered, well researched, and deliciously twisted psychological suspense thriller by talented Julia Heaberlin. You are in for a rare treat . . block out the time, for a roller coaster ride. Enter Here

Now, let’s get down to this exciting new book with a gal in the middle of a wildflower patch on the cover, in an open field. Drum Roll . . . I started reading this one in the middle of a move, crazy, right? So all I was thinking about when packing, unpacking, and driving…. is getting back to the book to solve the mystery. Talk about torture! A book to read uninterrupted. Hold on for an evil and twisted ride…

Set in Texas, meet Tessa, the only survivor of a serial killer, and buried alive with Five Susans in all—one dead girl named Merry, three gnawed-on nobodies, and Tessa. She is the one who should have answers. The others were dug up from their first hiding place and tossed in the field with her like chicken bones. Tessa was thrown on top with a girl named Merry who had been dead for more than a day. At first an EMT to arrive at the scene thought she was dead too.

The serial killing was dubbed Black-Eyed Susans, due to the abandoned burial site area being surrounded by a field of wildflowers. As we move back and forth from the innocent Tess, of age sixteen, a runner---to a traumatized victim with years of therapy, and no memory of the events, to the execution of the man charged for the brutal act.

Part One, readers go back and forth from Tessa and Tessie, (1995) and present day. Then we move to Part Two, centered around Sept, 1995 for a countdown by day, until days before the execution (of Terrell Goodwin), the so called murderer. Part Three we hear from Tessa and Lydia at age 16 and 17 and present day to the grand finale.

However, is Terrell the real sadistic murderer, or is he innocent, and who is the real killer? Tessa thinks Terrell may not be the guilty one; however, time is running out, and now she may be trying to help save his life.

Presently, Tessa is a single mother of a teen, and she is overly protective of her own teenage daughter, Charlie. We also get to hear from another character, Lydia (hold on to your seat for this one)… Tessa’s best friend. Now, in the cold of February, Tessa is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed Susans—a summer and fall bloom, just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at what this may mean – she may have sent the wrong man to prison, and the real killer remains at large.

With some forensics experts, bones, legalities, and technology; not available eighteen years earlier, with DNA, the man behind bars ready to be executed may be innocent; after all, she could never identify him since she has lost her memories of the time. There was no solid DNA evidence against Terrell, except a tattered jacket mired in the mud a mile away with his blood type on the right cuff.

Tessa wants nothing more than to put this nightmare behind her; however, she has to try and recall what happened, and strangely she begins seeing patches of black eyed Susans planted in familiar places. Could the killer still be out there taunting her? Now, you have to read the book to get the juicy parts--will leave your head, spinning. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter.

There has been so much hype around BLACK EYED SUSANS; “believe it”—Spellbinding! My first book by Julia and was blown away – this gal can write and brings new meaning to a "red herring." In addition, you will never look at the flower the same -- "an army of giant black and yellow flowers with angry faces." The black-eyed Susan, traditionally symbolizes “Justice” makes a very nice cut-flower with a vase life up to 10 days—go figure.

I agree with another reviewer—BLACK EYED SUSANS is unique, and in a class all its own, far exceeding the other two comparisons: Gone Girl and TGOTT (I was not wild about either of those). Enjoyed the OJ references (January 24, 1995) ­as recall it so well; a case described as the most publicized criminal trial in American history; Simpson was acquitted after a trial that lasted more than eight months—he got off the same year Tessa testified.

The good part. Oh my, what a surprise – Texans are not all about southern talk, big hair and flashy clothes, (bum rap) this gal knows her stuff, and what incredible research! I am all about research, reference, consulting, and backing up your smack. Julia delivers a superb slow- burning sizzler, with the usage of some incredible forensic science, therapy in psychic trauma, an intense depth into the legalities of executions. I also enjoyed hearing from each character, past and present, the good and bad, with humor and darkness, (offering a wide range of perspectives, for an ideal book club pick).

If you could go to the end of the book to the Acknowledgements' section (without peaking at anything else), and read the highly impressive list of credentials, research, and expertise, before reading the book, you will come to appreciate the author’s effort and time into this well researched novel, while reading. This is not a book to rush through—you need to think and keep up.

After reading, I spent quite a bit of time, engrossed with further online research, per the author's references, especially, Anthony Graves, a man wrongly accused—of killing a family of six. Watch the videos—a heart-felt story.

I am really enjoying the drama unfolding from novels today focused around the wrongly accused (the legal, crime, forensics), an innocent projects--when looking at older cases when information was not readily available. I recently read Marti Green’s The Price of Justice (7/21/15), a complex multi-layered legal crime suspense about a teen wrongly accused years earlier for a rape in Palm Beach, only days from execution. Have read all the books in the (HIPP) Helping Innocent Prisoner’s Project,

I look forward to reading more from Julia and her previous books. BLACK EYED SUSANS is an intense and compelling psychological thriller, of relationships, demons, hope and survival-- keeping your guessing to the end.

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