- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1444701045
- ISBN-13: 978-1444701043
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,324,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Poison Tree Paperback – 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
British author Kelly deftly weaves past and present in her highly satisfying debut novel of psychological suspense, which reveals how a convicted murderer came to be released after serving 10 years in prison. In 1993, the naïve yet brilliant Karen receives a scholarship to London's Queen Charlotte's College, where she's beguiled by Biba Capel, an iconoclastic and edgy drama student, who soon introduces Karen to her strange older brother, Rex. Karen joins sister and brother at the grand but deteriorating Capel family house in Highgate, with its several unconventional tenants. The three throw disorderly parties that enrage the neighbors, but they succeed in creating their own Edenic existence until the unwanted intrusion of Biba's hostile lover. Though melodrama looms, including a double homicide, the tension never wanes, and the ensuing horror comes as a major shock. The surprises don't end until the last page of this twisted tale with its wonderfully evocative London atmosphere. 5-city author tour. (Jan.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A dark, twisted tale of domestic tragedy, Kelly’s debut doesn’t miss a step: character, plot, dialogue, atmosphere, and pacing are right on the money. Karen Clarke has always done what’s expected and been a good girl: exceptional, conscientious student; obedient daughter; undemanding in her personal relationships. Then she meets fascinating Biba and falls in love with the young actress’ impetuosity and freewheeling lifestyle, both so different from anything Karen knows. That Biba wants to be her friend amazes Karen, who gratefully moves in with the actress and her protective older brother, soon to become Karen’s lover. At first, Karen finds her housemates’ casual lifestyle immensely appealing, but it isn’t long before she unearths the tangled emotions and tragic history that lies beneath the carefree scene. By that time, however, she’s so deeply enmeshed in her friends’ complicated, messed-up lives, she is unable to back away. Intriguing characters, a carefully constructed story that smoothly integrates past and present, and a shocker of an ending make this one special. --Stephanie Zvirin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
One night, things go horribly awry, and Karen flees from her idyllic life back to reality. Ten years later, Karen and nine-year-old Alice pick Rex up from prison after his sentence for murder has ended. But some old ghosts resurface, ones that Karen is determined to keep hidden--no matter what the cost. Nothing will get between her and her family.
The Poison Tree is enjoyable and a quick read. While Erin Kelly doesn't necessarily tread any new territory, she knows how to tell a compelling story, and you can easily see how someone as level-headed and intelligent as Karen could get drawn into the chaotic, dramatic lives of Biba and Rex. My only criticism of the book is I didn't feel it gave much depth to the present-day relationship and interactions between Karen and Rex. While I understand the bulk of the book needed to be spent on telling the story from start to finish, since the book interspersed past and present, I would have liked a little more exploration of the state of Karen and Rex's relationship, given her fears of it all coming undone. That being said, if you enjoy mysteries, this is one that draws out its suspense in a satisfying way.
Then the still unnamed protagonist and her daughter, recently reunited with her husband after and unexplained absence of ten years, revisit a house in Highgate. The house, sealed over with renovation, gives no hint of the run-down, decrepit, shambles of the house or the crime committed there, a crime central to their lives.
Only then are we introduced to seventeen-year-old Karen Clarke, a gifted linguistic student at Queen Charlotte’s College who meets and becomes infatuated with Bibi, exotic and free-living drama student. Her entanglement with Bibi and the ancestral home she shares with her brother will carry Karen into a chaotic, party driven life that collapses in disaster at the very moment it shows signs of pulling itself together.
The mastery of this story lies in its telling. Moving from present to past and back again, our understanding grows as the family haunted by the past and the past itself draw ever closer together. When they unite in the final chapters, the meaning of the poison tree hits with full impact. I do not love the characters of this book, and for me that’s usually a big drawback. In this case, however, the masterful job of storytelling overwhelms all.
When old ghosts come back to destroy the life it has taken Karen a decade to build, she has everything to lose. She will do whatever it takes to protect her family and keep her secret. Alternating between the fragile present and the lingering past with a shocker of an ending, The Poison Tree is a brilliant suspense debut that will appeal to readers of Kate Atkinson, Donna Tartt, and Tana French.
This novel opened with a prologue that made me think this book would be much faster paced than it was. But even so I was not disappointed.
Karen of the present seems so different than the Karen of the summer ten years previously. That Karen was carefree and laid back, this Karen is fraught with worry and tension.
Like most books I have read lately, this story weaves between the past and the present giving us just enough clues to be intrigued, but not enough to be quite sure of what happened or is going to happen.
This was very well written though at times it was a bit overly descriptive. It did give me a great sense of the surroundings and atmosphere and I can't complain too much as I finished this in a day.
It was a highly enjoyable debut and reminded me a bit of Carol Goodman's books, which I love.
my rating 4/5