Betty's Reviews > The Poison Tree

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly
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's review
Dec 16, 10

bookshelves: atmospheric, college, closure, crime, debut, depression, fiction, grief, innocent, madness, murder, psychological, acting, dysfunctional-family, novels, relationships, suspense, thriller
Read from November 18 to December 14, 2010

Published by Pamela Dorman Books/Viking
Review based on Advance Reading Proof

A wonderfully well-written, psychological thriller debut, one that just cries out to be read and discussed. A perfect choice for a book club. Although I found it a bit disconcerting with early chapters switching between then and now, it is really just an essential hiccup in the storyline. This ploy simply increases the building suspense as the story unfolds. Watch out for author Erin Kelly, she has thrown down the gauntlet and intends to stay around for a long time!

An unusual storyline from the voice of the protagonist, Karen Clarke, the characters with their many differences are well-drawn and continue to grow throughout the book. Take a young normal girl who just happens to be fluent in several languages and throw her suddenly into a completely different society and what is she to do? Her meeting with Biba opens a whole new world to her, one she is not only introduced to, but embraces wholeheartedly. In 1990s London, the beautiful and vivacious Biba lives her life fully and dramatically, essentially the actress she wants to be. When she meets Karen, the straight-A student of linguistics, she brings her to her home, a very run-down yet exotic house of many characters, some of whom live there with Biba and her brother Rex. Soon Karen is a constant visitor.

The book begins near the end, then switches back to this carefree and exciting life, time and time again. We learn of old secrets that have a distinct effect on the brother and sister, and later newer secrets come between them. Karen can not tell her story alone without telling the story of Rex and Biba. Their lives and stories are tangled as one. These three are the main characters, but there are more roles to be played by lesser players. Still, they are all bigger than life and all play their parts boldly. The story unfolds between this wild beginning, fraught with suspense and lies, racing toward an unknown and unexpected tragedy. Clues and portents are sprinkled between these carefree days of one summer, building and building to an excruciating level. Murder, prison, life, loss, all wrapped up in one great read. Descriptive, alluring, and definitely atmospheric, characteristics run the gamut from innocence and trust to parties, drugs, drama, sex and lies.

This is not a book one can easily review without spoilers, mostly because of the way the book is written with all its portents. That said, the ending is shocking and yet feels right. Once read, the reader will understand what I mean, but earlier in the book he/she may not. This is an exceptional start to what I believe to be a long run for this author.

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