Lindsay Heller's Reviews > The Poison Tree

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly
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's review
Mar 22, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012, mystery, we-really-want-to-be-secret-history

I've seen several people compare this novel to 'The Secret History', which is probably the reason why I picked it up in the first place. The elements are all certainly there; an exclusive group of pseudo students, a lost weekend that spans months, and a culmination in murder. But I honestly found this to be nothing like 'The Secret History'. It didn't even feel, not something I can say about most I lump into this category, that it was trying.

Karen Clarke has traveled through university as easily as she can. She studies language, something that's always come easy to her, and marks are impeccable. Probably because she's spent the past years studying and living a relatively quiet life with a group of like minded friends in a suburban house. But everything changes when she meets Biba Capel by chance at the end of her academic career. Soon Karen has all but moved into Biba's crumbling Highgate childhood home where lives with her brother, Rex, and whatever transients happen to be passing through at the time. Karen soon begins a relationship with Rex and weaves her life together with the Capels, not quite realizing the complexities of their pasts. With suicide, abandonment, and guilt in their corner what Karen takes to be a summer of love is about to end in murder.

This book is filled with secrets. It makes no bones about it. And by the end of the novel, once we've learned the answers to all of them, I was fairly satisfied. In some points the answers seemed a bit predictable or easy, but it's likely that the answers are that way because it's the natural progression of the narrative. The framing of the book, Karen, picking Rex up from prison ten years after the events of the bulk of the novel, was good, but I didn't think particularly necessary. I didn't really care about anything that happened in the present. Karen and Rex's daughter, Alice, Karen's fears that they'll be harassed by the media, I didn't care. I think I would have framed it differently. But c'est la vie.

Overall, I did quite enjoy this novel. I couldn't wait to get back and read what happened, but I'm not sure how long the story will stay with me. Then again, it did reminded me of college, A LOT, so maybe it will.

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