The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly

In three words:

Secrets, murder, gothic


What I thought:

Karen Clarke, an unremarkable girl from Birmingham, has been living in London for the past four years while at University and living in a house with three ex-public school friends who all play tennis together and have the same hair-styles.

Enter Biba, a care-free, spirited, bohemian whirlwind who takes who has a chance meeting with Karen and not only takes her under her wing but puts her under a spell of all-night parties, free drugs and independence all spent in a delapidated and crumbling victorian manor house in Highgate one boiling hot summer. Together with Biba’s brother Rex and several other more peripheral characters, Karen and Biba’s doomed friendship ends only months later with the death of two people.

What I loved about this book is that it starts in the present and we, the readers, know that something has happened in the past and that there are secrets which still have not been revealed. Karen is now in her 30’s and has a 10 year old daughter, Alice. Although the story mainly remains in the past (the end of the 90’s – the summer that changed everything) we are privvy to snippets of the present which helps the reader fill in some of the gaps of what may have happened.

The secret was a good one! I guessed it only shortly before it was revealed but even so it was exciting to read.

Verdict: Engaging, well written and with a great twist at the end. Recommended.


Have you read this one yet? I am now looking forward to reading this authors brand new book The Sick Rose.




18 thoughts on “The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly

  1. I loved The Poison Tree, I like a good dark, gothic read. Looking forward to her new book too, looks just as good, the settings are quite close to me, I like that 😉


  2. I really enjoyed this book too – what an edge of the seat read! I have The Sick Rose waiting to be read – I hope it’s as good or even better than The Poison Tree.


  3. This really was a good read… even though it has Gothic elements (which I always associate with winter & fall), I really feel like this is a perfect summer read. It’s definitely the kind of book you don’t want to put down!

    Also, I had no idea Kelly had another book out so soon! Must look into that!


  4. I loved ‘The Poison Tree’ and bullied my local library into buying ‘The Sick Rose’ as soon as it was published. I am halfway though it and at the moment I’m reserving judgement.


  5. Although this was an interesting story, I felt The Poison Tree was let down by over descriptive passages bearing unrealistic details which distract rather than fulfill the reading experience. Yes, this is fiction and should one be reading a fantastic work of a science fiction / fantasy genre, then details of an alien realm / existence are necessary, but 1997 London isn’t one of such realms.
    Kelly’s style resembles a cross between that of thriller and chick lit; a condescending description, perhaps, but one that luckily does not detract from the pace, which carries the reader unheeded along from chapter to chapter. In its favour, The Poison Tree is an idea read for a trip, but in terms of satisfaction, a reader may desire more.
    Nevertheless, one of the reasons why I was drawn to this work was the setting – Queens Wood, Highunngate in North London: I have lived most of my life in Highgate and also spent several years in Bern (another area mentioned in this book). I know both areas very well, even in the time when this work is set, and I’m afraid Erin lets her flights of fantasy occasionally take the reader to places which are less than convincing. One needn’t know Highgate to be aware of the time of Princess Diana’s death in sequence to the events of the story in the summer of 1997; an event which Kelly accidentally places in early August.
    As for character formation, flaws in the beginning of the work undermine the potential conviction of the main character formation. Early in The Poison Tree, having read the following origins to the main character, Karen’s ability at languages, I could not digest any further passages which contained implausible contents: “When I was ten, we went abroad for the first time, to Madeira: I came home almost fluent in Portuguese”. Can one possess such talent after a fortnight’s holiday? I remained less than convinced and dubious of other traits the characters possessed.
    I’m afraid I just find such passages unbelievable, whilst other passages consist of incorrect details; unfortunately, there are many of these throughout the book, many of which destabilize plot and character. True, this is fiction, but one set in a genuine age in London where logic needn’t be overlooked – perhaps the proofreaders and editors of this book are to blame who should have steered the story away from such irrelevant contents.
    All in all, The Poison Tree is an enjoyable read, though one which is laden with both unnecessary and flawed details. I can imagine such a work being transformed into a movie and perhaps that is the legacy of such literature today: one bearing non-fulfilling ingredients, but something which can be easily digested.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s