25 February 2011

Imprint Friday: The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Pamela Dorman Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

If you're anything like me, then don't start reading Erin Kelly's The Poison Tree unless you have some time to spare. The plot is immediately mysterious and takes off at a run; you'll need to keep reading.

Here's the publisher's summary:

This taut psychological thriller begins when Karen and her nine-year- old daughter, Alice, pick up Rex from a ten-year stint in prison for murder. Flash back to the sultry summer in 1990s London when Karen, a straight-A student on the verge of college graduation, first meets the exotic, flamboyant Biba and joins her louche life in a crumbling mansion in Highgate. She begins a relationship with Biba's enigmatic and protective older brother, Rex, and falls into a blissful rhythm of sex, alcohol, and endless summer nights. Naïvely, Karen assumes her newfound happiness will last forever. But Biba and Rex have a complicated family history--one of abandonment, suicide, and crippling guilt--and Karen's summer of freedom is about to end in blood.

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.
In the opening pages, we know only that a woman has left her house in hurry. We don't know why, and we don't know if she is racing to something or escaping from something (or somebody?). The situation is desperate, and she has no time to think:
The seat belt digs into the flesh between by breasts as I make an emergency stop to avoid hitting the truck that suddenly looms in front of me. It's a filthy vehicle of indeterminate color . . . moving so slowly that the driver must be drunk. I have no option but to slow to a crawl behind him.

I ought to use this enforced pause for rational thought. But there is nothing rational about this situation. I am driving alone in pajamas and wet, clammy boots on a country lane in the middle of the night. Nobody knows where I am or why. I had only been thinking of the others but for the first time it strikes me that my own safety might be compromised if I continue. . . .

I am frightened, but I feel strong. I have the strength of a woman who has everything to lose.
And thus by page 3 you are hooked. As you learn more about this woman's life--both present and past--you'll attempt to put together the facts before you get to the last chapter. Maybe you'll succeed, but I didn't. Rather than ruin the book by providing too much information, I'll leave you with three opinions:
  • Nicole from Linus's Blanket notes that the novel is "A sort of backward murder mystery, if you will, we know the identity of the killer, but what we don’t know is why he did it or whom he killed. The story unfolds in Karen’s first person narrative, and everyone the reader meets as Karen shares the story of their past, is a potential murder victim."
  • Maureen Corrigan, writing for the Washington Post, concludes: "In 'The Poison Tree,' Kelly gives readers a compelling creeper that intelligently invokes the conventions of the Gothic and plays within the doom-laden confines of the voice-over. More please, Ms. Kelly! Quickly!"
  • Publisher's Weekly wrote: "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."
The Poison Tree was an Indie Next Pick for January 2011. To learn more about Erin Kelly, visit her website (warning: the book trailer starts playing immediately after the page loads) or read an interview at Excuse Me, I'm Writing.

Pamela Dorman Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Pamela Dorman's introductory letter, posted here on December 3, 2010.

The Poison Tree at Powell's
The Poison Tree at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Viking / Pamela Dorman Books, January 2011
ISBN-13: 9780670022403


Lynne Perednia 2/25/11, 8:06 AM  

You're doing horrible things to my book budget; this looks like another one to find.

bermudaonion 2/25/11, 8:45 AM  

This sounds right up my alley!!

Jenn's Bookshelves 2/25/11, 9:10 AM  

I've been dying to read this one for some time now!

marthalama 2/25/11, 10:18 AM  

I have to agree with Lynne. You're adding way too many books to be "to buy" list. This sounds really good.

Steph 2/25/11, 10:44 AM  

I totally agree that this is a book that begs to be read from cover to cover, with the rare bathroom break in between! While I'm not sure this is exactly of Tana French quality, I thought it was a great read and look forward to seeing what Kelly does next!

Zibilee 2/25/11, 11:47 AM  

Oh my! The quote and synopsis that you posted really piques my interest and I am afraid that you have given me another excuse to buy a book. This one sounds fabulous! I also just wanted you to know that I am buying The Weird Sisters after reading your spotlight and review. I am really looking forward to it!

Dorte H 2/25/11, 12:30 PM  

Great post.

I also enjoyed this one thoroughly.

Julie P. 2/25/11, 2:08 PM  

Oooh! I want this one!

Rebecca Rasmussen 2/26/11, 9:00 AM  

I have seen such fabulous reviews of this book, and yours is no different :)

Beth Hoffman 2/26/11, 12:43 PM  

This is in my "To Read" stack, and I can't wait to crack the spine!

Alice Teh 2/27/11, 4:51 AM  

For lack of clever things to say, I echo everybody here!

Mystica 2/27/11, 11:01 AM  

This sounds very good!

BookGeek 2/27/11, 11:24 AM  

I am not much of a mystery fan, but you're right...the first page of this book captures you right from the start. Incredible tension. Thanks for a great review!

Coffee and a Book Chick 3/8/11, 9:59 AM  

I picked this one up at SIBA last year and have been meaning to read this one sooner rather than later! Not sure why I haven't picked this one up - it has everything that I like in it, not to mention the title and cover does draw me in!

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