The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly
I cannot remember the last time I read a book that I could not put down before I read The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly. It is superb. It is so hard to believe that this was a debut novel, but it was. I have read other novels by Erin Kelly, The Ties That Bind is reviewed here: https://bookreviewstoday.info/2016/04/17/the-ties-that-bind-by-erin-kelly/ .
Erin Kelly was born in London in 1976 and grew up in Essex. She read English at Warwick University and has been working as a journalist since 1998. She has written for newspapers including the The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Express and magazines including Red, Psychologies, Marie Claire, Elle and Cosmopolitan. She also lectures at Swnawick Writers’ Summer School. She is a generous teacher.
However, although The Ties That Bind was an excellent book, The Poison Tree gripped me even more. I read it in one sitting and did not get to sleep until 4.15 am. I always joke that Erin Kelly owes me a night’s sleep!
The Poison Tree is unusual because it is told in the present tense by Karen. She is at university in London in the 90s and shares a house with four other girls. They are all very sensible, with steady boyfriends, playing tennis at the weekends and doing nothing more rebellious than sharing a bottle of white over their homecooked meals.
Then, Karen meets Biba who is a beautiful, carefree aspiring actress, and Karen finds herself sucked into Biba’s world which is so unlike her own. Karen spends the summer living in Biba’s rambling Highgate home with an assortment of characters including Biba’s over-protective brother Rex.
The action flits from the summer with Biba, to ten years in the future. We know from the blurb on the back that the summer ended in a double murder. The reader pieces together what happened all those years ago at the house in Highgate as the author sucks them into Biba’s world. As the author explains a lot about the characters, the reader, and Karen find themselves fascinated by the exciting life Biba leads.
This book has been converted for TV already and I really enjoyed The Poison Tree. It is an intriguing read and it is all cleverly put together. I did not see the final twist, but cannot help but wonder how a person as delightful as Ms Kelly can think of such dark tales. I will definitely check out more from Erin Kelly.