Seventeen-year-old Tessa, dubbed a ‘Black-Eyed Susan’ by the media, became famous for being the only victim to survive the vicious attack of a serial killer. Her testimony helped to put a dangerous criminal behind bars – or so she thought.
Now, decades later the black-eyed susans planted outside Tessa’s bedroom window seem to be a message from a killer who should be safely in prison.
Haunted by fragmented memories of the night she was attacked and terrified for her own teenage daughter’s safety, can Tessa uncover the truth about the killer before it’s too late?
I seem to have read quite a few crime and psychological thrillers recently and this fairly slow burning psychological thriller was one I liked.
Tessa at the age of 17 was left to die in a ditch with other young female victims of a serial killer. They were dubbed the Black-Eyed Susans by the media because of the flowers growing nearby. She was the only survivor.
Terrell Darcy Goodwin was tried and found guilty of the attacks.
Almost twenty years later Tessa is now a mother to a teenage daughter, Charlie. The old case is in the news again. Terrell Goodwin is on death row and the lawyers are trying to file an appeal. Tessa is haunted by fragmented memories of the night of the attack. She is having doubts about her original testimony and believes she may have been coerced/encouraged into saying certain things. When black-eyed susans appear under her bedroom window, out of season, she is freaked out and terrified for her daughter’s safety. Are they a message from the killer who should be in prison?
There is also the mystery of her friend’s disappearance shortly after the Trial. Lydia and Tessie had been friends through school and Lydia was with Tessie in the run up to and during the Trial. Not long after the Trial finished Lydia and her family simply disappeared.
The story switches between the past and the present.
The teenage Tessie tells the story leading up to the trial of Terrell Darcy Goodwin and the aftermath including her involvement with therapists and doctors. The present day story is told in the voice of Tessa, the mother of Charlie.
As the story progresses it becomes apparent that Tessie/Tessa had held back some things at the trial.
Over the years the adult Tessa has had doubts about her testimony – had she been slightly manipulated by her friend Lydia (and perhaps even her doctor) who was by her side before and during the Trial but who disappeared along with her family a few days later? She is haunted by those fragmented memories and begins to suspect she may have been coerced into saying some things and withholding others at the original Trial.
She was fearful for her own teenage daughter’s safety after the blackeyed susans appeared under her bedroom window out of season. Is the wrong man in prison because of her testimony? Are the flowers a message from the real killer.?
Some believe Terrell Goodwin is innocent and enlist Tessa’s support as they attempt to gather evidence for an appeal against the death sentence. Various tests, that weren’t available at the time of the original trial, are carried out.
The tension builds up as the appeal looms, little clues are revealed, and the suspense is maintained right to the end.
I really liked that the author used the two distinct voices of Tessie/Tessa. I found the story well written and although the story might seem a bit slow at first, the tension (and the doubt) really builds up towards the end.
[I received an ARC from Penguin UK – Michael Joseph via NetGalley].