The Poison Tree focuses on Karen in the present day and flashes back to her past to explain the present. You see, Karen has just reunited with Rex after his 10 year prison stay, and along with their daughter, Alice, they are trying to become a family. The reader quickly figures out that Rex was in prison for murder, and the ensuing flashbacks are going to explain the who, why, and how that we so desperately want to know.
It takes a long time to get there, and fortunately I REALLY wanted to know what he did or I could have given up. You really have to like character studies because most of this novel is exploring the characters as their true personalities are revealed. Along with Rex and Karen, Rex's sister, Biba, plays an important role. Karen is graduating from university and she speaks several languages. Biba needs someone to help her with some German, so she and Karen become friends. Biba is unlike any friend Karen has ever had. She's wild, smokes, drinks, and does drugs. Her brother, Rex, has tried to take care of her since both their parents have been out of the picture for many years.
They live in their family house, and have several interesting roommates. Eventually Rex and Karen begin a romantic relationship and Karen moves in the house with him and Biba. I really can't explain the sense of impending doom as we very slowly watch these characters grow and change. For much of the novel, nothing ever happens, save for the day-to-day partying, conversations, and travels of the three main characters. But more and more secrets are revealed as we go along. Other characters enter and leave as we journey, but when I try to think of an episode worth mentioning, I can't. It's all very atmospheric and difficult to describe in a few paragraphs.
The blurb calls this a "psychological thriller." I get the psychological part -- as we go along we realize that some of these characters have serious psychological problems. But nothing about this novel is what I would call "thrilling." Maybe a bit of suspense, but that's not the same as a thriller.
I loved the last section of The Poison Tree after the murderous episode. I was stunned to find out what really happened -- and then stunned again...and again. I'm glad there were surprises, because I really would have felt I wasted my time if I had been able to figure out what happened early in the novel. But I didn't, and at the end I was glad I had persevered. And I readily admit I'm more of a plot person than a character person, so others might enjoy every moment of The Poison Tree depending on your tastes. It is interestingly written and the audio is superbly narrated by Jennifer Ikeda.
The Poison Tree takes place in London, and the narrator speaks with a delightful British accent. Her voices for each character are somewhat similar, but I was never confused while listening. She reads pretty fast which I prefer. Her accent made me think that Biba's name was "Beeber" which I found really amusing.
The Poison Tree is an adult novel, and only the most mature teens would find this one interesting. There is, as I said, drug use and drinking, but no explicit sex scenes. These characters are college aged, so those who enjoy the "New Adult" genre would potentially enjoy The Poison Tree.
Published by Pamela Dorman, 2011, audio by Recorded Books
Copy obtained from the library
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