Published August 2015 by Random House Publishing
Source: my ebook courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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.
Remember a few months ago when I said I was really getting tired of stories with dual narratives told in both the past and the present? I'm cured. Turns out if you tell the story from one person's point of view, where that person is something of two different people, and it's done well, I will not be able to put the book down. Heaberlin does it well.
"I am the Cartwright girl, umped once upon a time with a strangled college student and a stack of human bones out past Highway 10, in an abandoned patch of field near the Jenkins property. I am the star of screaming tabloid headlines and campfire ghost stories. I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans. The lucky one."For the better part of the book, Heaberlin moves the story back and forth between post-abduction Tessie as she goes through therapy prior to the trial of the man arrested for attacking her and grown up Tessa who has built a new life for herself and her daughter but who can't escape the ghosts of her past or her monster. Tessie's a marvelously unreliable narrator and Tessa is just the kind of person you'd imagine she would be given what she's been through.
Some interesting supporting characters, some science, a few red herrings, little clues along the way but only a glimpse of the actual attack and nothing about the murders themselves all worked to keep me on edge. Although the tension built throughout the book and I did not entirely see the ending coming, it was a bit of a let down. Overall, though, a good start to R. I. P. X.