Three girls went out to play. Only two came back.
You’ll never forget the Flower Girls.
The book starts with a chilling flashback, setting the scene for the uncomfortable tale of Rosie and Laurel, the notorious Flower Girls. Aged 10 and 6, the girls lead a toddler away from the safety of her mother down towards her doom.
The flashback style is continued throughout the book, and to great effect, giving hints into what really happened on that fateful day but not quite giving it all away. You feel the spikes of fear of a nation distraught at the crimes of, what should be, an innocent young girl, but also a sense of foreboding that all is not as it seemed. Woven around these memories is the ‘current’ development – another child is missing from a hotel where one of the Flower Girls is staying – which perfectly compliments the wrongness of the past case.
Clark-Platts also uses different characters to voice the story as it develops, including chapters from the girls, now women, in their respective lives; a policewoman on the new case; a writer and the aunt of the flashback victim. Each character is written impeccably and you’re drawn completely into their worlds with each chapter. This tapestry of perspectives is incredibly gripping and allows you to see the cases from all angles to keep you guessing at the truth. I found all of the narrators aside from the policewoman dislikeable, which I think added another layer to the compelling nature of the book. I didn’t like these people, and I wasn’t supposed to.
The things that make this book so effective are the thought-provoking issues that underpin the plot. You are encouraged to think about and question ideas of nature versus nurture; punishment; the media circus; the age of morality, all of which add to the uncomfortable atmosphere Clark-Platts creates. It’s a dark and uncertain world which forces you to form opinions on things you have likely never had reason to think about, and I found this totally engrossing.
Finally, the ending. I’m usually pretty good at guessing twists but this one caught me by surprise. It continues the dark, twisty path that the preceding plot tumbled you down, and just when you think you’ve found your feet – out comes the rug. This is the perfect winter thriller with a compellingly uncomfortable storyline, that you will absolutely race through.
The Flower Girls is published by Raven Books and is available here.
Alice Clark-Platts is a former human rights lawyer who has worked at the UN International Criminal Tribunal in connection with the Rwandan genocide, and on cases involving Winnie Mandela and the rapper Snoop Dogg. She studied at Durham University and is a graduate of the Curtis Brown creative writing course whose fiction has been shortlisted for literary prizes.
Reviewed by Amber Mears Brown
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