SIBA in the fall of 2010. I'm kicking myself for waiting this long to read it.
In this engrossing psychological thriller and stunning debut from Erin Kelly, Karen Clarke is a brilliant young woman with a passion for language. Even at a young age, picking up a new language was a snap for her, and in her later years, it's no different. Even her daughter Alice, at nine-years-old, speaks Spanish fluently. Karen has raised this little girl alone, all while the father, Rex, has been in prison serving out a sentence for murder. And now he's coming home.
Ten years prior, in 1998, Karen was a few months shy from graduation at the top of her class. While Karen's plan was to get a wonderful job, or even go to grad school, things are delayed when she meets Biba Capel. While Karen is quiet and unassuming, a person who fades into the background as others easily ensnare the spotlight, she feels compelled to talk to Biba and offer her language services. Biba needs a coach, someone who can correct her German while she practices for a role in an upcoming play. This chance encounter shifts Karen's summer, and ultimately, her entire future. Before that day is done, she's tutored Biba in her first session, paid for the entire meal along with Biba's train ride home, and been invited to Biba's upcoming birthday party, where she meets Biba's brother, Rex.
The friendship between Karen, Biba, and Rex begins in the Capel's childhood home at Highgate in London, a crumbling mansion which has its own story to share. In a scant three months, Karen becomes a part of their tiny unit and she and Rex fall in love. It's an odd arrangement in the house, three people who are so very different. Biba is adventurous, wild, and recklessly charming. Rex is thoughtful, passionate in his protection of his sister and for those he cares about, his emotional strength making him a self-assured lover for Karen. And Karen, while innocent and naive to this new life, is drawn to the feeling of true friendship and real love. She's comfortable with spending her summer with these siblings, who have taught her more about life and ultimately, herself, than she ever thought possible. But there are secrets with the siblings, and even Karen has one years later, one that if the truth ever were to come out, could change everything. And mixed up in this is the unanswered question of who Rex killed, and why?
It is this very manner of slowly unfolding the story and all of its secrets that is so captivating. Expertly maneuvering between past and present, from one summer of 1998 to ten years later, Erin Kelly keeps the narrative quickly paced and easily engaging. It's a psychological thriller on the edge, a ticking time bomb of fierce passion, secrets, and insecurity which demands all attention to keep reading until the end unfurls with a sadness that was difficult to experience. I was left quite morose, impressed with the story and quiet for the characters' twisted and unfortunate paths taken. Without question, Erin Kelly's talent easily resonates with every page, the events and uncomfortable moments leaving you anxious to find out what happens next, and I will eagerly look for her next work. I highly recommend this book and encourage all who enjoy psychological thrillers, suspenseful reads, and mysteries to read it.
For audiobook lovers: I read this, but I wanted to hear how the narrator sounded. I listened to the five minute sample on audible.com and I really like the narrator's voice. Granted, it's only a snippet, so if anyone ends up listening to the audio, let me know what you think. The voice is what I imagined Karen to sound like.
Publisher: Penguin Group
Release Date: 1/6/2011
About the Author
Erin Kelly was born in London and grew up in Essex. She read English at Warwick University and has been working as a journalist since 1998. She has written for newspapers including The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and the Express, and magazines including Red, Psychologies, Marie Claire, Elle, and Cosmopolitan.
The Poison Tree is her first novel, and she has another book out entitled The Sick Rose. She lives in London with her husband and daughter.
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