Sunday, March 25, 2012

Book Review: "The Poison Tree" by Erin Kelly

Language student Karen Clarke has a stable life, if not a particularly exciting one. She lives in a luxurious off-campus apartment with three friends, they play a lot of tennis, socialize with their boyfriends, and follow a fairly organized pattern. Just before her last year of college ends, Karen meets Biba Capel, a flamboyant aspiring actress, who quickly fascinates and draws Karen into her world. Karen moves into the dilapidated mansion Biba shares with her older brother, Rex, and any number of random friends. It is a world of excess, of drugs, alcohol, and late-night parties, and Karen cannot get enough of it. But the summer of paradise Karen dreams of doesn't quite pan out as she hopes. She begins a relationship with Rex but still longs for the exotic life Biba has, and she realizes that both Capel siblings have more issues than she imagined.

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.

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