No one ever said growing up would be easy, but Karen Clarke never expected it to be quite so hard.
Intoxicating PoisonReview by Laura ReeseWhen I have to put down a really good book and take care of the rest of my life – weekend play dates, glamorous laundry duty, homework management – I often find myself thinking abut the story I have left behind. Particularly, I wonder about the characters – their mistakes, motivations, and dreams. And I always snatch the first few moments I can to zoom through the next dozen pages. (Yes, that’s me in the carpool line with my Kindle!)
The Poison Tree is that type of novel, UK author Erin Kelly’s debut. Paced exceptionally well, the plot weaves fluidly between the past and present-day 1997. Kelly does a beautiful job of character development, lush setting description, and offers often-startling insights into the attractions and dangers of London’s bohemian lifestyle.
Readers are introduced to Karen Clarke, a brilliant, straight-A college student with an uncanny knack for learning languages. Her father encourages her to take the summer off and enjoy herself before entering the real world of work and deadlines. By chance, Karen soon meets an eccentric and glamorous drama student named Biba who seems to intoxicate everyone she meets with her free spirit and grand ideas. From the moment Karen enters the once-grand mansion where Biba and her brother, Rex, reside, she becomes willingly ensnared in a whirlwind lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, and sex.
Karen initially believes Biba and Rex are orphans, but later learns that their wealthy father abandoned Biba and Rex soon after their mother died. Their father has married again, started a new family, and attempted to erase almost everything about his old life, including his two adult children. When Biba decides to confront him on the steps of his home, she is roughly dismissed and dragged away by Rex and Karen.
Biba drinks away her sorrows and enters into a toxic, abusive relationship, while Rex falls hopelessly in love with Karen. After a stormy encounter with her boyfriend ends with Biba in the hospital, she vows to stay away from him. However, it isn’t long until Biba breaks her promise and tragedy strikes. Two people are dead, Rex is taken into custody by the police, and Biba urges Karen to flee for safety.
The storyline continues to twist and turn, revealing many dark secrets and hidden truths. Erin Kelly does an admirable job keeping suspense high, tensions tight, and the plotline moving until the very last sentence. The Poison Tree is a must-read for anyone who loves a good psychological thriller!
The Poison Tree title is taken from a William Blake poem. The novel, published by Pamela Dorman Books, was released on January 6, 2011. (ISBN 0670022403)