The Poison tree is well-written, psychological thriller, one that just cries out to be read and discussed. Although I found it a bit disconcerting with early chapters switching between two time periods, it is really essential in the storyline. This ploy simply increases the building suspense as the story unfolds.
An unusual storyline from the voice of the protagonist, Karen Clarke, a young normal girl who just happens to be fluent in several languages, and throw her suddenly into a completely different culture and what is she to do? She meets the most eccentric person she can. Her meeting with Biba opens a whole new world to her, one she is not only introduced to, but embraces wholeheartedly. In 1990s London, the beautiful and bubbly Biba lives her life fully and dramatically, essentially the actress she wants to be. When she meets Karen, she brings her to her house, which is a domicile of many characters, some of whom live there with Biba and her brother Rex. Soon Karen is a constant visitor.
The book begins near the end, and then switches back to this carefree and exciting life, time and time again. We learn of old secrets that have a distinct effect on the brother and sister, and later newer secrets come between them. Karen can not tell her story alone without telling the story of Rex and Biba. Their lives and stories are tangled as one. These three are the main characters, but there are more roles to be played by lesser players. Still, they are all bigger than life and all play their parts boldly. The story unfolds between this wild beginning, fraught with suspense and lies, racing toward an unknown and unexpected tragedy. Clues and portents are sprinkled between these carefree days of one summer, building and building to an excruciating level. Murder, prison, life, loss, all wrapped up in one great read. Descriptive, alluring, and definitely atmospheric, characteristics run the range from innocence and trust to parties, drugs, drama, sex and lies. This is an extraordinary start to what I believe will be the first of many great reads from this author.