Black-Eyed Susans

Black-Eyed Susans
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Ballantine Books
August 11th 2015
June 1, 2020 June 12, 2020

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.

About the book

Black-Eyed Susans is a book about a closed case, because it is a case that occurred in the past, with the criminal in prison, but for the main character it isn’t concluded at all, because she continues to find planted yellow daisies at her house. The attacker is on death row and now that she is an adult, Tessa, the protagonist, believes she has sent the wrong man to prison.

So the book is a bit of a journey between past and present, the past to explain what happened and the present to see if Tessa can remember what really happened and to understand if “her monster” is really behind bars or if he’s still on the loose.

What I think

I liked the book. I must say that the case and its solution was a bit obvious and above all not original since I have already read other similar books. But I liked how the book was constructed.

I would have liked more details about the original case. In the end it is not known what happened to Tessa, we only know in general. We know she was abandoned in a pit with other girls’ bones, we know that because of that she has a pacemaker but even here, she doesn’t tell us why. What I mean is that writing about the pacemaker without telling us the “why”, it’s useless if you don’t write why she needs this device. Why? Because she has been abandoned in a pit for too long? Or maybe the assailant physically did something to her and so now she needs the pacemaker? There are no details. Past aggression is also not well explained. Why was she attacked? How was she attacked? Was she kidnapped for days? Was she left in that camp a few hours after she disappeared or not? There are a few things missing that I think (and for my reading pleasure) I would have preferred to be explained. It is not enough to say Tessa was attacked and then only see the months after the attack. And also the fact that she was blind for some weeks… why did it come? I can imagine it, but I’m not sure it’s for that reason.

For the Italian version I added more details about the translation which is “to be done again” because there are some (a lot) of errors and the title doesn’t make sense at all. But I won’t go in details here.


After all my salty words it would seem that I don’t recommend it to anyone but that’s not true. The book lacks certain details (and the Italian title sucks) but the story deserves attention. It isn’t a bad book, indeed. I like how the author mixes past and present and how short the chapters are.


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