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The Poison Tree

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  9,230 ratings  ·  1,077 reviews
From an incredible new voice in psychological suspense, a novel about the secrets that remain after a final bohemian summer of excess turns deadly.

This taut psychological thriller begins when Karen and her nine-year- old daughter, Alice, pick up Rex from a ten-year stint in prison for murder. Flash back to the sultry summer in 1990s London when Karen, a straight-A
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 6th 2011 by Pamela Dorman Books (first published June 10th 2010)
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This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Bev Taylor in a word, yes. the ending spoilt the whole novel for me. bev…morein a word, yes. the ending spoilt the whole novel for me. bev (less)
Crystal Hiatt The Dark Rose is not related to this book, so you can read it first if you want. I loved The Poison Tree, but The Dark Rose has definitely been my…moreThe Dark Rose is not related to this book, so you can read it first if you want. I loved The Poison Tree, but The Dark Rose has definitely been my favorite book by Erin Kelly thus far. (less)

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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  9,230 ratings  ·  1,077 reviews

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Jun 01, 2011 rated it really liked it

so i am giving this four stars because

1)there is no option for three-and-a-half
2)it was kind of the perfect book to suit my mood in the day-and-a-half it took me to read it
3)in the spectrum of "books that claim to be just like secret history" this one takes home high marks.

but really - it's just a fast-paced crime thriller and is not likely to stay with me for any real amount of time.

it gets points for having the central character named karen. and having her be a genius of languages. but
Misha  Mathew
Following The Secret History, there has been an avalanche of books claiming to be like it or inspired by it. My attention was first drawn to The Poison Tree, after I read a review comparing it to The Secret History. My interest was immediately piqued because The Secret History, as some of you may know, is one of my all-time favorites.

Though many elements of the book are reminiscent of The Secret History, The Poison Tree manages to hold its own. It's mesmerizing, unsettling and shocking. It's
Ova - Excuse My Reading
I read some good reviews of this book but I was hesitant to read it after the comparisons to Secret History- I really didn't get the hype about Tartt's novel- but this one, was SO good.
If you're a fan of reading unlikeable characters which you want to slap and shake, then this is your psychological thriller, a really good one. Highly recommended.
Jan 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery-suspense
This book did not succeed for me, on several levels. Primarily I just didn't get the fascination the narrator, Karen, felt for the Capel siblings, Biba and Rex. Biba seemed spoiled and self-absorbed and Rex was jobless, wimpy, and ineffective at his self-appointed task of being Biba's caretaker. Their so-called Bohemian lifestyle was pretty tame by my child-of-the-70s's standards. There was drinking and a little pot-smoking, a couple hits of ectasy and a few lines of cocaine--hardly the ...more
Jun 14, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
3.5 stars

This drama/thriller/mystery(?) was fast paced and told a decent story with a satisfying twist.

Karen was a bit of a square at University specialising in languages for which she has a special gift. Her life was dull and safe until she met Biba a bohemian drama student whom she adored and whose lifestyle she coveted and adopted for one special summer.
Biba's brother Rex is completely different from Biba but he too drew Karen further into their world.

The beginning of the story is set in the
Jun 11, 2012 rated it did not like it
At the very beginning of this book, the reader learns that Karen is picking up her husband, Rex, who just served a 10-year term for murder. In the car with her is their daughter, Alice. The story unfolds with alternating chapters: present day and the summer ten years ago when the murder took place. Present day: Karen and Rex attempting to adjust to their new life and problems such as pesky journalists, Rex' s learning about the modern world outside and trying to find work, living in a small ...more
Oct 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Naïve Karen. Hedonistic Biba. Respsonsible Rex. One long hot summer. Two dead bodies. A life time of secrets.

The Poison Tree is narrated by Karen, both in the past and present. A decade earlier, she’s sensibly coming to the end of her degree when she meets the exotic Biba and her brother Rex. Mesmerised by Biba, Karen is seduced into a bohemian summer of love, drugs and parties in an old crumbling mansion. Feeling free for the first time in her life, she embraces her new experiences, becoming
Jennifer Williams
Jan 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
When I originally rated this book, the author "thanked" me on Twitter for my review. I could not tell if it was a serious or sarcastic thank you . . . Her followers were not very happy with me!

I am sure that some people will like this book a lot, but it seemed very contrived, forced, and unbelievable. It is in a genre that has been hit or miss for me (the "books-like-Gone-Girl" genre)
Apr 15, 2019 rated it liked it
The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly is an incredibly slow-burn thriller. All of the characters are unlikable and full of secretive lies. The story in intriguing for sure but it took a long time to get to the thrilling parts. I will say that Erin Kelly excelled at building the suspense and anticipation but at the same time, I would have liked the plot to move at a little bit faster pace.
Rachel Hall
Erin Kelly’s debut psychological thriller of 2011, The Poison Tree, has often been cited as an example of a novel that readers respond strongly to and it has drawn a huge cross-section of reviews right across the board. Having enjoyed The Burning Air and intrigued to discover just why The Poison Rose seems to polarise readers, I dived into this one. The novel opens with Karen and her nine-year-old daughter, Alice, collecting husband and father, Rex, from a ten-year stint behind bars for ...more
The Poison Tree had been on my Amazon wishlist for months, and this sunny weekend I finally decided to treat myself to it. I was happy to find that, true to my expectations, it was hugely readable, so much that I'd finished it within 24 hours of my purchase. The book is divided up into two stories, flipping back and forth between the long, hot summer of 1997 and the present day. Both are narrated by Karen; in the 1997 story, she is a naive 20-year-old and, having recently finished her degree, ...more
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the first book I have read by this author, and I was impressed by the author's insight into her characters. Karen is just out of her final university year and agrees to house sit for her current room mates over the summer, all the time knowing she must find another place to live before the fall. She is in the student commons one day when she meets Biba (Bathsheba) Capal posting an ad for a temporary German tutor for a play she will be acting in over the summer. Because Biba is a free ...more
Feb 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Erin Kelly's Poison Tree is publicized as a "tight psychological thriller". I'd drop the word thriller as this denotes to me a more fast paced tempo than is the case here. I'd read it alone for its in depth psychological character study. Erin Kelly gets this just right. Beginning at the end, the story flashes backwards and forwards in a space of ten years, rapidly and without warning, and yet it is easy to follow. I quickly became engrossed with the three main characters, Karen, Biba and Rex. I ...more
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: new
This is one of those books where everything in the first half is all portentous foreshadowing--the characters living out the consequences of some unimaginable past horror only hinted at in passing (but set in, you know, the bohemian London world of a second-tier university of the late 90s; it was a terrible time before cell phones). This narrative style totally can work (e.g., The House at Riverton by Kate Morton, although I can't stomach any of her other work), but, in the end, with such a ...more
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
C.E. Trueman
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In The Poison Tree, Erin Kelly creates an assortment of compelling and convincing characters.

A year into her university degree, studious linguist Karen Clarke, the sensible and conservative narrator of the story, finds herself drawn into the chaotic and bohemian world of vivacious but self centred wannabe actress Biba Capel and her over protective brother Rex who live on their own in a ramshackle house in London following abandonment by their famous photographer father and the resulting suicide
Alex Cantone
Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
The noise of the city falls away as we enter the secret sliver of wild wood, where the ancient trees muffle the sirens and the screeches of the street and the half-hidden houses occupy a dark green private universe, cushioned by money....

Released after serving ten years in jail for murder, Rex is trying to rebuild his life with Karen and their young daughter Annie. But who is making the phone calls and watching them, or him, or is it her?

The book switches between the present (written in
Mar 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
I have really enjoyed this book. Somewhat twisted and partly mouth-opening. It was definitely one of those books that you knew with the way the story was going, it wasn't going to end well! It did slightly remind me of another book that I just read which was an excellent debut called Sherry and Narcotics by Nina-Marie Gardner. Both storylines are of "damaged" women and their relationships with drugs/alcohol and men however Kelly's twists more into a mystery while Gardner's veers more into a book ...more
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a great atmospheric novel to settle into on a Saturday!
I was in the right "zone" for reading this, and it was a novel that pulled on my own recollection of my late teens and the numerous eclectic mix of characters I can recall entering my "normal" orbit at that time.
I found Biba fascinating at the beginning, her brother Rex a bore, and Karen irritating.
Then half way through or so, Biba and Karen switches spots.
Very clever on the author's part.
The reasoning behind the name Alice was not lost
Bridgit Morgan
Jan 23, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I'm ultimately glad I read this mystery, I did find many of the twists fairly predictable and unoriginal. I do look forward to reading more from Erin Kelly, however... her writing style was addicting and fast-paced!
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a while to get into this book (in fact it took over 150 pages), but once I did, I couldn't put it down. Kelly details the complexities of her characters' emotions and relationships so fully and articulately, and the last 50 odd pages left me gasping at every turn of the page. A rollercoaster ride of a read!
Jun 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Erin Kelly does a fantastic job writing a novel that's chilling and unsettling in first person POV. Karen Clark, the protagonist attends university at Queen Charlotte's College in London, England. With her multilingual talents, she has a bright future ahead. After four years at university, her boyfriend breaks up with her and her three roommates are heading out for the summer with her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend. Of this great transition in Karen's life, Kelly writes, "I had the sense ...more
Susan Liston
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, read-2018
Okay this is the kind of book I don't want to bother reading this year, and here I am starting with one right off the bat. This wasn't terrible, it's decently written, but there is a lot of the same old. Flashing back, we meet a predictably dull scholarly girl who predictably gets a girl crush on a predictably bohemian wild girl, who you mainly just want to slap, and DS girl moves in with BW girl and her boring, overprotective brother to their predictably crumbling old manse. You know from the ...more
Mar 12, 2014 rated it liked it
I'm slowly working my way through Karen's books-claiming-to-be-just-like-secret-history shelf, although if I made such a shelf I'd have to switch it to The Likeness because I read that before The Secret History. The thing about these books is that the characters which the narrator is drawn to have got to be alluring & likable & you must feel sucked helplessly into their twisted little worlds. This book did not work for me on that level at all. I never liked Biba & I never bought the ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Jan 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
Eh. I enjoyed a few chapters. Karen meets Biba and is enthralled by her life, and falls too for her strange brother Rex. Drugs, parties, characters, rambling old house and suicidal tendencies. We know disaster will strike soon as foreshadowed throughout the novel in flashbacks. I had a hard time with Rex, because I couldn't decide what the writer wanted him to be, damaged and neurotic or mature and sensitive? Biba was your typical beautiful wild child much overplayed in literature. Karen was ...more
Ruth Turner

This wasn't a bad read, but it wasn't a particularly good one either.

Most of the book I found a little tedious, but then the last chapter takes off, and before I knew it I was finished and left feeling "so that's it?"

The story goes back and forth between the present and the events that happened ten years ago. I had difficulty throughout the book figuring out where I was. The formatting in the e-book edition I read was a nightmare. All the lines were double spaced so it was difficult to tell
Lisbeth Davies
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Collette, Nancy, Donna, Maria
Recommended to Lisbeth by: Can't remember
An outstanding psychological thriller!

The dogs almost didn't get their daily walk because of this book - having stayed up until silly o'clock on day 1, I kept sneaking off the computer the following day to snatch "just another few pages" until finally I got an uninterrupted block of time to finish it tonight. Phew.

If you enjoys the novels of Sophie Hannah, Nicci French, Tana French et al then Erin Kelly's books are definitely for you.

Once I've sorted out the Christmas budget, I'll undoubtedly
Sarah Sandfort Schultz
Sep 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2011
I kept reading bc it had that annoying structure where you know from the beginning that a murder has been committed, but you don't know who did it or who was murdered, so I kept reading bc I wanted to know....but that is a bummer of a technique unless the ending is REALLY GOOD. It wasn't. It feels like a sneaky literary trick. The characters had promise, but not enough. So many good books to read, I suggest skipping this one (I'll tell you the ending if you need to know...).
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Erin Kelly was born in London in 1976 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 The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Express and magazines including Red, Psychologies, Marie Claire, Elle and Cosmopolitan.

“ I blocked it from my mind. I could do that with things I didn't want to think about, like snapping shut a book.” 3 likes
“Daybreak,' he said, looking out at it. 'I always thought it was funny that dawn should be called daybreak. This is when the day is made - it's the beginning. I'ts the best part: you've got all the potential of the day to come, and you haven't wasted yet. When it gets dark, that should be daybreak. When the day is broken. When it turns into night time, that's when it all start's to go wrong.” 1 likes
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