At the age of 16, Tessie was found near dead and dumped in a field of black eyed susans with a number of bones. She is the only survivor of a serial killer. Told in alternating timelines by 16 year old Tessie who is dealing with her recovery from her traumatic experience, and 32 year old Tessa, worried that the man convicted and on death row for the crimes isn’t actually guilty after all. The reason she thinks he isn’t guilty? She can’t remember anything from her experience and she continually comes home to black eyed susans planted in her yard, no matter where she lives. Is killer is still taunting her…?
I really enjoyed Black-Eyed Susans, and there were definitely parts that felt really creepy. There were also parts that felt like more of a mystery than a thriller. The present day Tessa spends her time working with forensics expert Jo and lawyer Bill, examining old evidence to exonerate the man currently on death row. I did like the characters in the book. though Tessa was challenging sometimes because of how many unaddressed issues she still had. She can still hear the other victims (or “susans” as she calls them) talking to her in her head, so clearly she has some unresolved problems.
I went to school and have my degree in Forensic Anthropology, so I loved that aspect of the story – I geeked out over the science a little bit. Ha! I’m sure not every reader enjoyed that as much as I did, but I really liked Jo’s character.
While I enjoyed the ending, I do have some mixed feelings. I felt like it was rushed. It was really the last 10% of the book where things started getting revealed and resolved, and I felt like there could have been more time spend there, since there was a huge reveal in the end. I felt like I was left wanting more.
There was some romance between Tessa and Bill, which I didn’t love. I felt like it wasn’t necessary to the story and did nothing for the overall story line. Then Tessa’s daughter’s father comes back in the picture and there’s sort of this weird little love triangle, which did nothing for me. I didn’t like that the father came back in the story at all, because I feel like he was eventually forgotten about later in the story and wasn’t talked about again, so it felt random to me.
Overall, I really enjoyed the writing style and was engaged in the story from the very beginning. I’m excited to read more from Heaberlin! I’d recommend Black-Eyed Susans if you’re looking for something that isn’t chocked full of twists and turns at every page and that is more of a slow burning mystery with an action packed ending.