> Skip to content
  • Published: 16 May 2016
  • ISBN: 9781405921275
  • Imprint: Michael Joseph
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $22.99

Black-Eyed Susans

A chilling new thriller that gets into the heart and mind of the killer - and the victim . . .

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 when 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?

  • Published: 16 May 2016
  • ISBN: 9781405921275
  • Imprint: Michael Joseph
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Julia Heaberlin

Julia Heaberlin grew up in Decatur, Texas, a small town that sits under a big sky. It provided a dreamy girl with a great library, a character behind every door, and as many secrets as she'd find anyplace else. An award-winning journalist, she has worked as an editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Dallas Morning News and the Detroit News. Black-Eyed Susans is her third psychological thriller set in Texas. She lives near Dallas/Fort Worth with her husband and has a son who attends the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently at work on her next novel of suspense.

Also by Julia Heaberlin

See all

Praise for Black-Eyed Susans

Creepy and compelling, Black-Eyed Susans is a shadowy and crooked journey to a very dark place indeed, a twisty fairytale that deceives you just when you think you've cracked it and a thriller to make you remember why you love thrillers. Don't miss it.

Observer, Thriller of the Month


Crime Watch

Fascinating details about identifying remains through bone and DNA analysis are woven through equally compelling present-day narration and flashbacks to Tessa's therapy sessions and trial testimony. The pieces can't come fast enough as the story builds to a shocking and satisfying conclusion. Deliciously twisty and eerie, Heaberlin's psychological suspense novel is intricately layered and instantly compelling

An August LibraryReads Pick

Gripping... The suspense builds as Tessie uncovers devastating secrets from the past en route to the shocking ending

Publishers Weekly

My book of the year so far. Breathtakingly, heart-stoppingly brilliant

Sophie Hannah, internationally bestselling author of, The Narrow Bed

Sophisticated, disturbing and with plenty of red herrings

Woman and Home

Terrific. Impeccable plotting

Barry Forshaw

The best thriller I have read in a very long time. Intelligent and very intriguing - this author's writing pulled me in immediately. I think it outshines both 'Gone Girl' or 'The Girl on the Train'.

Brandie is a Book Junkie!

This book is a rarity in that the research underpinning it is evident but not obtrusive. Black Eyed Susans is a fine achievement. It drips with authenticity, empathy and dread, meditating on the Death Penalty as well as offering an empathetic study of the life of a survivor. Take note - Julia Heaberlin belongs on every suspense fan's bookshelf

Nudge Books

Black Eyed Susans is a compelling read, especially for Serial fans


Black Eyed Susans is haunting, intense and original - it'll keep you guessing till the last page


Black-Eyed Susans is a masterful thriller that shouldn't be missed . . . and in terms of suspense, characterizations and storytelling... is outstanding. Heaberlin's work calls to mind that of Gillian Flynn. Both writers published impressive early novels that were largely overlooked, and then one that couldn't be: Flynn's Gone Girl and now Heaberlin's Black-Eyed Susans. Don't miss it.

Washington Post

A powerful thriller . . . With a fairy-tale-like atmosphere, the creepy thriller works insidiously on the senses . . . Clever, ingeniously manipulative and elegant.

Maxim Jakubowski, Lovereading

A sophisticated take on the serial killer novel

Good Housekeeping

A spellbinding tale, at once both completely believable and utterly suspenseful - and once you reach the novel's perfect ending, you will want to read it again

David Dow, Death Row investigator and author of Things I've learnt from Dying

A tense, beautifully written novel of survival and hope. Highly recommended

William Landay, bestselling author of Richard and Judy-selected Defending Jacob

A truly compelling tale of the fragility of memory and elusive redemption

Kirkus Reviews

A truly compelling tale of the fragility of memory and elusive redemption

Kirkus Reviews - 9 Novels You Shouldn't Miss Before Summer's Over

A fascinating, educated, highly absorbing read that I struggled to put down for any length of time. Any free moment was spent with my head in this book. Intense, creepy and atmospheric, Black-Eyed Susans is a intelligent character driven masterpiece excellently paced with some great plot twists which had me guessing right to the very end ... brilliant!

SJ2B House of Books

About as good an example of Grip Lit as you could read

Sunday Independent

An absorbing character study and a good choice for readers who want to really sink into a psychological thriller


an intriguing tale told by a compelling but unreliable narrator who struggles to remember details of her abduction as a teenager, but is convinced the wrong man faces execution for the crime

Sunday Times Crime Club

An intriguing and twisty read... This is a very well written thriller with a cleverly structured plot

My Reading Corner

As well as a brilliant premise, the writing style keeps you hooked and at times is quite unsettling . . . it takes a lot of skill to be able to unnerve a reader like that, so hats off to Julia Heaberlin for writing such a gripping and atmospheric story that had me jumping every time I heard an unexpected noise. This book will draw you in and have you second guessing yourself page after page. Black Eyed Susans is probably one of the most cunningly clever and gripping thrillers I've read in a long while and I would recommend this as one of my top reads of the year so far

Bookshelf Butterfly

Heaberlin drip-feeds an intriguing story at a tantalising pace . . . Heaberlin has written an intelligent, absorbing and well-researched page-turner that will delight fans of Megan Abbot and Tana French

Daily Express

I love this cover and I love this book, the super-creepy story of a woman who was rescued from a shallow grave as a teenager

The Bookseller

If readers looking for the next Gone Girl do pick it up, I guarantee they won't put it down. A classic page-turner.

D Magazine

If you like dark and disturbing psychological thrillers then Black Eyed Susans should definitely go on your list


In a grave under a patch of Black-eyed Susans, in a Texas field, a serial killer buries four girls. Three die. One survives. Sixteen-year-old Tessa, after several days with the three corpses, is traumatised. Her evidence in court results in a man being sentenced to death for murder. Tessa achieves a measure of normality and becomes a single mother and an artist. Now, nearly 20 years later, Black-eyed Susans are freshly planted outside her window and she's approached by lawyers trying to stop the imminent execution of the convicted man who is still on death row, claiming his innocence. The story is narrated in alternate chapters by the Tessa of 1995, soon to be a witness at the man's trial, and today's Tessa, tormented by the thought that if the wrong man has been convicted, the real killer is free and a danger to her and her daughter. But, we learn gradually, that Tessa has been keeping secrets too. It's a terrific plot, matched by the quality of the writing and superbly paced tension.


In Julia Heaberlin's mesmerising novel, the haunted Tessa is the only survivor of a serial killer's reign of terror. But after several decades, she finds flowers planted outside her bedroom window. Is the murderous monster she escaped from still in prison - or closing in on her? In a crowded field, Heaberlin is something special, and clearly an author to whom close attention must be paid

Barry Forshaw

It's a clever plot with perfectly paced tension and many shivers along the way

The Times

It's a terrific plot, matched by the quality of the writing and superbly paced tension


One of the classiest thrillers you'll read this year

Charlotte Heathcote

Taut, addictive, intelligent and impressive


Tense, pacy and compelling, Black-Eyed Susans is a taut psychological thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Julia Haeberlin masterfully ramps up the suspense gradually, building to an explosive denouement that you won't see coming. Quite simply, the best thriller you'll read this year - perhaps decade. Miss it at your peril.

Sarah V. Taylor, Keep Calm and Read a Book Reviews

The assured telling of this chiller combines to create a very modern Gothic horror that will keep you up way past your bedtime

Sunday Mirror

The book is a delicious mix of well-researched facts, creative plot twists and a likable main character . . . a masterful storyteller

Star Telegram

The denouement is unexpected, plausible and perfectly satisfying . . . Black Eyed Susans is a thumping good mystery

The Bookbag

There's a hint of Kathy Reichs, Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and of Paula Hawkins's The Girl on the Train. Despite its dark subject matter, this is a hopeful book . . . the ending managed to be both surprising and satisfying.

We Love This Book

This dark, complex thriller is not just a gripping page-turner, but also brilliantly explores the psychology of the victim

Mail On Sunday, You Magazine Book of the Month

This is a deftly organised, impeccably paced psychological suspense thriller that nods to Daphne du Maurier and, like all Heaberlin's fiction, boasts purr-inducing prose

Sunday Times, Culture Magainze

This is the debut novel of Julia Heaberlin, and again it's excellent . . . Beautifully written . . . It's a great book

BBC Arts Show

This twisted tale is disturbing in the best way, rife with suspense and rich in eerie detail. A deeply creepy page-turner that you won't want to put down

Laura McHugh, author of The Weight of Blood

We can't remember the last time a thriller burrowed under out skin like this. Sparkling characters, authentic emotion, and an unpredictable plot makes this a terrific read from start to end

iBook, Books of the Month

With vivid, original prose that never misses its mark, Julia Heaberlin lures you into this psychologically astute and utterly riveting story of a victim left for dead by a serial killer, whose forgotten memories may hold the key to finding 'her monster.' As this dark journey into her past unfolds, you will race through the pages to discover the shocking secrets she thinks she wants to remember--only to find the truth lingering in your own mind long after you're done. A fascinating, twisted book

Koethi Zan, author of Richard and Judy-selected THE NEVER LIST

Related titles