Book Review: The Poison Tree

The Poison Tree

Erin Kelly

Pamela Dorman Books

336 pages

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears,
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
and he knew that it was mine, —

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning, glad, I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

William Blake

Karen Clarke is the type of college student that fades into the background.  You wouldn’t notice her.  She never gets into trouble, she completes her work on time and everyone knows what to expect from her.  That all changed one summer during the 90s when she meets a free spirit on campus named Biba Capel.  Biba lives with her brother Rex and the two of them leave a bohemian lifestyle.  They are very carefree, enjoying wine and music every night in the family home they share together, with not much else mattering.  Karen is enamored by their lifestyle and she quickly abandons her old life to move in with the siblings.

We know from the very beginning that something awful happened that summer, resulting in someone’s death, although we know not who the victim is.  We also know that Rex has been imprisoned for a decade for the crime and that he and Karen have a daughter together.  The rest of the circumstances remain a mystery that slowly unfolds throughout the book.

If you haven’t read the book, I would suggest skipping the next paragraph, unless you enjoy spoilers**

I could see why Karen had such a fascination with Biba, but as the book wore on, I began to loathe Biba. In fact, loathe may not be a strong enough word to describe the dislike I felt for her.  It was so ridiculous that Rex gave up ten years of his life for her, and I wish he would have thought it over before he decided to shoulder the blame.  I suppose there is little chance that he would ever be able to fully realize what a selfish brat she was though.  I was so happy that Karen was able to realize it though.  I was GLAD she killed Biba at the end.  I very rarely wish for someone’s death in a book, but the gall she had to try and come back to a daughter she abandoned with no thought for anyone but herself really irritated me.

End spoiler**

My cousin has been after me to read this book for weeks.  We often share book recommendations but I have never been hounded by her to read a book the way she did with The Poison Tree. After reading it, I can see why.  It was a great psychological thriller and Kelly’s writing was perfect at keeping me invested in the story.  Every chapter left me wanting more, so I would keep tearing through the book, unable to put it down.  And as the story kept unraveling, it got more and more interesting.

I will definitely be including this one on my Best of 2011 list.

Other Reviews:

Linus’s Blanket

Beth Fish Reads

I purchased this book used from a book sale. 

This book counts towards the RIP VI challenge.

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13 Responses

  1. I really enjoy novels that consists of college students. It’s very rare to find a college setting in a book. I’ll keep my eye open for this one.

  2. I’m not looking at the spoiler, especially since the first part of your review makes me want to read it!

  3. This sounds very Ruth Rendell-ish. I can’t wait to read it!

  4. I have a copy of this book but haven’t read it yet. I’m impressed that it’s one of your best of 2011! I’ll have to move it nearer the top of my tbr pile.

  5. Totally totally want to read this. I long for books that psyche me out and make me lock my doors!

  6. A mystery with a great title that makes your best of list? Count me in!

  7. I’ve had this on my list for a while but so far haven’t been able to lay my hands on it although her second book has appeared in the library. Your review makes me even keener to read it!

  8. I skimmed thru your review as I haven’t read this one yet but I just put it on hold at the library since you enjoyed it so much. Thanks for the recommendation!

  9. Haven’t heard of this one, but I love a good psychological thriller… adding it to my list!

  10. This sounds fantastic. I’m adding it to my wish list. And that poem has always appealed to me … in a scary little way.

  11. Ooh! I hadn’t heard much about this book but it sounds really good!

  12. I am going to have to see if my library has this!!

  13. I loved this book, too. You and I seem to have similar taste… I’ve been picking up so many of your reviewed books!

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