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VINE VOICEon 2 August 2014
I tend to avoid reading the 'comments' they put on books which are trying to effectively sell you the book. "Dark, gripping and atmospheric - shades of Rebecca" all sort of put me off, what if I actually don't agree with that stance?

It is the blurb and recommendations from fellow readers that made me pick this book up. I was immediately transported back to 1997 through the eyes of Karen one of the three main characters in this début novel by Erin Kelly. Karen is telling the story now, some ten years later.

This was a year that brought about a lot of changes for Karen, she was coming to the end of her educational life and was a student who found the whole studying process easy. Her knowledge was vast and intense and she had had a different university life to many of her housemates. But as she comes to that cross roads she takes a rather unsuspecting turn and ends up meeting Biba.

Biba is effectively everything that Karen is not. She is a wild child, she felt she was free to do anything in her world despite the constraints of the world she actually lived in. She wanted to be an actress, she was the drama queen, the people she surrounded herself with flattered her ego and made her life much more exciting than Karen's boundary defined existence.

Karen is absorbed into Biba's world, moves in with her and an intense friendship begins which shows Karen a very different view of life. Sharing this world and the only one protecting Biba is her brother Rex. Their relationship was more protector and protected, it was strained and there was something rather odd about it. I thought one thing, but I was not sure, the book and the characters caught me that way. As the book progresses you see it analysed more through the eyes of Karen as she fell more into Rex's circle and was ever increasingly moving away from Biba's madness.

What started as an adventure for Karen, ends very differently now that Biba and Rex have drawn her into their world. I could not see where this book was going, what was going to happen to them all, I had many ideas of the undercurrent that was being built up by the author but I was wrong on all counts. I had to keep reading because as the pieces were coming together I did wonder who Karen actually was.

As with all memories, I wondered whether Karen's had changed events over time and that this was a clever way of conveying to the reader the story. Rather than a dual narrative, where there is a more defined course and as readers we can see actually what happened, this was Karen's view. Clouded by what we would only find out as we kept reading and turning the page?

Can you ever be free of the past? Can Karen deal with secrets buried about yourself and others? Are they just acting as a slow poison waiting for that final moment when it will all come tumbling out....

A different read for me, not my normal choice of book. But it was great to be captured by something that I did not know about and be taken on a journey into a different life.

As for those words to describe the book, as I look back now having it read. I need not fear that I would not agree. I do wholeheartedly.
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on 6 June 2012
For me a great book is one that stays with me. I feel compelled to write this review since I read this book about 6 months ago and I still think about the characters to this day. When I was reading the book I wasn't sure how much I was enjoying it. I thought the characters were too bohemian for me to relate to and maybe too young. Despite this, I find myself often wondering about the characters and I genuinely missed the book once I had finished it. This is a great novel and I would recommend it wholeheatedly.
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on 15 August 2010
When I bought The Poison Tree, I was taking a chance on paying for a book that would not be good. I was pleased to find myself reading it furiously,wanting to find out what happened to the friendship between the narrator, the fabulous Biba, and her brother, Rex.

I like the juxtaposition between the narrator's "today" and her memories of 1997.Of course,the suspense builds well with this plan.

The characters are beautifully drawn; Biba is extraordinary...I won't go into details here, but let me say that she is a character to remember!

I was surprised at the ending; yet, I found that it was a believable one, with lots of moral questions for me to ponder.

If you like Nicci French/Nicci Gerrard,Lucie Whitehouse,read this book!
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on 1 September 2011
I'd had this book recommended to me by Amazon with a few others and it caught my eye straight away with the front cover! I was also excited when there was a 'Trailer' and after watching it, it intrigued me even more. I just had to buy this book! And I wasn't disappointed either. This story grabbed me form the very first sentence and kept me guessing until the very end! I found this story unlike any other and I was drawn into the world's of all the characters, especially Biba. This book has been placed in my Top 10 and I can't recommend The Poison Tree enough! Read it!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 July 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The great strength of Erin Kelly's highly readable debut novel is the plotting. She manages to drip feed the reader with developments and clues throughout the book that keep the interest at a high level without falling into the trap of stretching the realms of belief.

Set in the present and the hot summer of 1997 in London, she tells the story from the perspective of Karen, a language student who meets the mysteriously glamourous bohemian Biba, a drama student, and her older brother Rex who live in a large house in North London that has seen better days. Over the summer of her final year at university, Karen moves in with Karen and Rex, and into a world of parties, mystery, alcohol, drugs and a variety of eccentric and shady characters, including drug dealing Guy. You know from the outset that things are going to go wrong because in the first chapter, in the present day, Karen is with Rex who has just finished a prison term.

While the plotting is superb, the characterisation and sense of place is less well developed, but it's still a very satisfying read and you never quite know in which direction things are going to go. None of the characters are hugely likable, but it's well worth reading and Kelly may be a talent to watch.
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on 3 September 2011
I enjoyed this book but, without giving too much away, the end was something of a disappointment. The characterisation was good and Kelly summed up the mood and tensions of a long, hot summer in London in the 1990s - moving back and forth, with ease, from then to the present day. I read it on a deckchair in the garden and if you're a fan of tense thrillers - without unnecessary gore and gratuitous violence - this is worth a try.
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on 25 November 2011
A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine was the first Ruth Rendell book I ever read and I have been a big fan ever since, so I was looking forward to reading this book with the same sort of theme. On my first attempt though, I struggled with it and gave up after the meeting of Karen and Biba. I picked this book up again and gave it another try months later and overall I was pleased that I did.

Unlike some reviewers here, I really enjoyed the descriptive text and I thought it made the book quite atmospheric. However, It is a slow burner and the characters of Karen and Rex are deliberately played down to try and make Biba more interesting.

For me, the characterisation could have been so much better and this is what I found disappointing as this author has a definite flair and writing style which I liked very much. The characters are very stereotypical. Biba is a "bohemian" drama student and this term is massively overplayed along with the long hot summer of love theme. This wasn't the 60's or the 70's and Biba would probably have been described at that time not as bohemian but as a `wild child' - for me her character is way too over romanticised. Karen is the language student from Dullsville who is intoxicated by Biba's sex, drugs and rock n roll lifestyle (why?? She can't have been that sheltered - has she not already lived in London for three years whilst at university and this is 1997?). Rex is the over sensitive, damaged soul and I feel his character could have definitely been explored more deeply to allow us more empathy with him. Guy is the posh boy gone bad dealing with swarthy drug dealers emerging from shadowy streets with brutish looking pitbulls straining at the lead (of course). I felt the characters were written carefully for a middle classed audience and were a little bit contrived.

Still, I really liked the book once I got into it, an excellent first novel and an exciting new talent - I am really looking forward to reading the authors next one.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I really enjoyed reading this book. It's a bit of a slow-burner at times, but never dull and I found myself pulled towards the ending, with a need to find out the conclusion of the story.

It's a fairly formulaic story, which has been done before. I've read at least two very similar books about students going off the rails when they meet somebody unusual and bohemian. However, this is a very well-written book, with excellent characterisations, and a couple of really nice twists at the end, which make it a bit different from the norm.

I think Erin Kelly has a very promising career as a novelist ahead of her, based on this book.
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on 24 October 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I love atmospheric reads and that's what I was hoping for with this book. Sadly, I was let down. The main problem was with the characters. I just couldn't engage with them and therefore found it difficult to immerse myself into the story. Also, knowing from the very beginning that something truly awful had happened induced me to think the pace was going to be fast and relentless. It wasn't. I found it dragged and I didn't get on with the time changes. There was just enough to it to keep me reading but on the whole I found it disappointing.
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on 16 January 2016
Through entirely my own(rather stubborn and slightly ignorant)choosing I wouldn't have normally read this type of novel.All I've ever indulged in are crime/pacy thrillers,serial-killers,horror and everything in between.Basically,if there isn't sinister evil afoot and plenty of bodies I don't want to know.I can't even remember now what made me decide to read The Poison Tree(could have been all the gushing blurbs on the cover,or maybe my subconscious trying to broaden my horizons?)but I did.Loved it.Read her next three books.And now she's one of my favourite authors.There's no multiple body count and no monsters(human or otherwise).What it has is intrigue and bags of atmosphere that sucks you into the heart of the wonderfully written character's lives,teasing and unsettling you at the same time.This palpable sense of unease,that all is not well and is going to end badly,drove me to finish the book just as quickly(if not quicker)than any serial killer had ever managed!And that's what makes Erin Kelly's books so good and(for me)a breath of fresh air.Each story is about a normal bunch of people,caught up in a bad situation,that you know is going to spiral out of control,but you don't know how or why.Because that's the other thing that Erin Kelly has a gift for - the twist.I don't mind admitting I'm yet to see one coming.I really can't recommend The Poison Tree and her other books enough.
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