Vegantrav's Reviews > The Poison Tree

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly
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Jun 14, 11

Read in June, 2011

I seriously hope that Erin Kelly, the author of The Poison Tree, is not one of those writers who read the reviews of their books here at Goodreads (as I know some writers do) because I really did not like this book at all. I feel as if I have been robbed of the opportunity to read good novels by wasting my time reading this dreck.

The Poison Tree is promoted as a brilliant, mysterious thriller. It is not.

It is an excercise in emotionally overwrought tedium and long-winded ridiculousness. It attempts to build more and more tension (and does so rather poorly) as the novel advances, but the atmosphere of forbidding and fear with which the author tries infuse her story is extremely weak, and the mystery that she does ever so very, very, very slowly elaborate is really not that mysterious at all and is dull--just dull, pure and simple. Several times I resolved to simply stop reading The Poison Tree, but then I would re-read the reviews on the back cover and be inspired with a hope that the plot would soon take off, and I would at last find myself in the midst of a compelling mystery. Alas, that never happened.

The secrets that the narrator, Karen, keeps, which she refers to often but without revealing their nature until near the end of the novel, lead the reader to believe that Karen is hiding some grave, serious sins. She is not: her secrets are actually things that she has done which are very praiseworthy and not even remotely bad; she also keeps us in the dark with a secret about her lover, Rex, which is also a secret that shows, basically, what a great guy Rex is instead of being some deep, dark, wicked secret about him.

Karen, moreover, is one of the most socially inept, completely naive characters that I have ever encountered in literature. For example, Karen portrays herself as being, until she meets Rex and Rex's sister, Biba, a rarther quiet, shy person who has few really close friends. Upon meeting Rex and Biba, Karen immediately attaches herself to them and begins to act as if she has known them for years and, in fact, moves in with them within a matter of only a week or so of knowing them. And Karen is gravely hurt at the smallest slight and utterly thrilled at the subtlest praise from Biba, and after meeting Rex and Biba's friends--Nina, Tris, Jo--only a few times, Karen speaks of them as if she has known them for years and is very close friends with all of them and deeply concerned about every aspect of their lives. She barely knows these people and interacts with them for no more than a few days (with Rex and Biba's friends) or a few months (with Rex and Biba), yet she seems to think that they are all best friends and deeply concerned with each other and each other's lives. The immediate intimacy and tight-knit friendships that form among these characters in almost no time at all is not remotely realistic: it is so ludicrous that it borders on the incredible even for a work of fiction.

The prologue to the novel sets a frightening tone that promises dark secrets, possibly even murder, and revenge as the heroine and narrator, Karen, flees from a grave danger. This tone ends with the prologue as the rest of the novel, until the very last few pages of the last chapter, proceeds in torpid fashion, challenging even the most charitable of readers to stay awake and to finish this exercise in boring drivel.


****SPOILER ALERT****

The only redeeming value in this novel is the climax. Here at last, Biba, an awful, horribly unbelievably selfish, shallow character gets her proverbial just desserts when Karen actually does something that we readers can finally cheer: Karen murders Biba. Finally, Karen, you have a real dark secret that you need to keep.
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