Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

There is something eye-catching about the cover of this book. It seems almost like innocent, summery fun with just a hint of naughty. I guess the depiction of a naked woman covered in flowers tends to be a sensual image; for example rose petals on a king-size bed for a wedding anniversary. Don’t be fooled; there is nothing romantic about the storyline of this book. Except, perhaps that in life you meet people who would do anything for you, and you would do anything for them. And sometimes without telling them. There’s a strong undercurrent of responsibility and protection in this book, and it is very well written. I loved it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to read at some points, but persevering to the end is rewarding.

This book has a complex concept of guilt, self-preservation and loyalty. Fierce loyalty. Unwavering loyalty. In a happier circumstance you can easily see how it could make you love someone, but this is a harrowing book. The plot is stuff of nightmares, one of those news stories that makes you look away from the television screen and hope to God noone you know is involved. I believe there’s a part of human nature that draws us into the grotesque and macabre. It disgusts us but we still want to lean in to hear more; learn the gruesome details.

Exploring the mental impact of life-changing events and the power of the brain to protect it’s host is a delicate subject, but the author addresses it head-on. The division of the timeline in this thriller adds to the composition, with some parts acting as flashback moments, others in the present day. The confusion feels real. Like you are in her head and you don’t know what is memory and what is fashioned to protect herself from the stark reality. The journey the main character takes to find the truth is nothing short of torture, imagine having to trick your brain and plough through the protective layers; like peeling an onion layer by layer even though your eyes are already streaming with tears.

I enjoyed reading this thriller a lot. It was quite different to any other story I’d read, I did have my suspicions as to what may have happened to the killer, but I could not identify the killer. I was gently surprised, but also felt peaceful and happy at the ending. A sense of vindication. A sense of justice. I love the “cold-case” aspect and the scientific interjections were fascinating. This book leaves you feeling hopeful for any family and friends out there who have unanswered questions about a loved one; some day they may get peace. Forgive the cringe X-Files reference but “the truth is out there”. Sometimes just a little more digging is required to find it. -GJ

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