I’ve just finished reading “The Poison Tree” by Erin Kelly!
It is a fascinating book, which sees the protagonist – a slightly naïve, academic young woman called Karen, who meets Biba, a bohemian actress who runs wild, and her brother Rex, the protective brother. During one summer, Karen’s life is turned upside down and changes forever.
Karen is from a decent background, and at the start of the novel is living with 3 clean-living girls in a proper house which they all take turns to cook and clean, and are seemingly inseparable. They feel to me a little too perfect, with their lives laid out in front of them with every step thought out and clear. Karen feels very different: even though she too is like them, she has that edge that hints at a need for a more unconventional attitude to life.
This is where she meets Biba by chance, and agrees to teach her German for a play. Karen is introduced into the bohemian lifestyle of Biba, Rex and their acquaintances, one where drugs and alcohol are normal. Biba is unpredictable and glamorous and Karen feels a huge draw towards her. Rex is as equally beautiful as Biba but is very overprotective of his sister and is the more sensible and responsible of the pair, acting almost like a father figure to Biba after their parents abandoned them.
The story flits between the summer when Karen meet the siblings, and to the present where Rex has just been released from prison for a crime committed during that fateful summer. Karen now has a young daughter, who she is determined to protect from the truth. Mysterious phonecalls are plaguing Karen and she tries to hide this from Rex and her daughter, but she is determined to keep her family together and carries her own secrets which she will do anything to keep hidden, as we find out later in the novel.
This novel makes you aware that someone is going to die at the beginning, but even i was surprised who actually died and who killed them. I was also surprised at how the secrets turn out to be deeper and more complicated than you first think.
I give this novel 7/10 because it is a gripping and fascinating thriller, but i feel it takes a long time to get to the bit you’re waiting for, the deaths the book’s blurb hints at. However, the plot is woven really well with great descriptions, characters and events, and the ending is really unexpected and ties up the loose ends quite neatly.