Book Review & Excerpt: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Posted August 11, 2015 by @Angelized_1st in Books, Entertainment / 0 Comments

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review & Excerpt: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia HeaberlinBlack-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
Published by Random House Publishing Group on August 11th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers, Suspense, Contemporary Women, Psychological
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
ISBN: 9780804178006
Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooks

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.

Book Excerpt


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. Four 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 burning.

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

Read More…

Black-Eyed Susans Slider Banner

The Good…:

When Tessa was 16 years old, she was kidnapped by the Black-Eyed Susan killer. He kidnapped, tortured, and murdered young women, and then buried them in a mass grave. Tessa Cartwright was the lucky one. The lone survivor. She testified against the man police believed responsible for the heinous crime, but now he’s about to be executed, Tessa is having doubts that she helped to convict the right man. Maybe it has something to do with the fresh patch of black-eyed susans planted underneath her bedroom window… Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin is a suspense/thriller that keeps you guessing throughout. Told from the protagonist’s dual perspective, Tessa at both 16 and 36 years old, readers are left having to piece together the information provided by an unreliable narrator. I found this a lot of fun, because it allowed me to play detective while reading, and I loved guessing the identity of Tessa’s monster.

Aside from the ‘whodunnit?’ aspect of the story, I also liked the characters. Tessa is traumatized enough from what happened to her, that you never quite believe her view of what happened. When you read about what she went through after she’s  rescued, you wonder if she doesn’t remember, or is hiding something. I spent most of the book torn between wanting her to remember, and the other half wanting her to spill the beans. Finding out how much Tessa really knew kept things interesting. Plus, Tessa as an adult is very different form the 16-year-old version, and I was curious how the traumatized young woman became such an independent, caring mother. Tessa’s relationship with her daughter Charlie was one of the aspects of the story I loved the most. There’s also a romantic element to the story, and I enjoyed that a lot. Mainly because it’s a minor detail to the story. Something nice that happens to Tessa, but it doesn’t take away from the main mystery.

Do I Recommend?

Wholeheartedly! I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers lately, and this is the first where I really had to guess at who the killer was. Some people may figure it out early on, but I won’t pretend I’m one of them. I was actually surprised, but at the same time I really wasn’t. The reveal made sense with the rest of the book, and I didn’t feel like Julia Heaberlin was trying to be smarter than the reader. An element in my mysteries I like. I also really thought the plot was thoroughly planned out, and had a great resolution. This was important to me, because it seems like I’ve been reading a lot of books lately where the end puts a damper on my reading experience. If you’re still looking for suspenseful books to add to your summer reading list, Black-Eyed Susans would definitely make a great addition.

Rating Report
Overall: 4

Book Excerpt: Courtesy of Random House Publishing Group

About Julia Heaberlin

Julia Heaberlin, is an award-winning journalist who has directed arts and lifestyle coverage at the Fort-Worth Star Telegram and The Detroit News. She lives with her family in Texas, where she is at work on her next novel of psychological suspense.


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