As the only survivor of a serial killer, Tessa Cartwright has spent the last 20 years trying to forget her past, but when the killer's execution date looms, she begins questioning everything she once believed.
The media dubbed 16-year-old Tessa and the other Texas victims "Black-Eyed Susans" because of the flowers that covered the ground where they were found. Heaberlin (Playing Dead, 2012, etc.) wisely metes out the gory details of the 15 hours between when Tessa went missing and when she was discovered in a grave along with the freshly rotting corpse of one still-unidentified "Susan" and the bones of two others slowly over the course of the narrative, which shifts back and forth between past and present. Tessa's childhood best friend, Lydia, stands by her side throughout the trial until an alleged betrayal tears the friendship apart. Now the mother of a 14-year-old girl, Charlie, Tessa is convinced by a crusading anti–death penalty lawyer and an eminent forensic scientist to help secure a new trial for Terrell Darcy Goodwin, the man on death row for kidnapping her and murdering the other girls. Shaky eyewitness testimony and junk science convicted Goodwin back in 1994—Tessa had no memory of her attacker—and she's wracked by guilt that her testimony may have sent an innocent man to prison.
Heaberlin takes what could have been the ingredients for just another episode of CSI and turns them into a truly compelling tale of the fragility of memory and elusive redemption.