The Flower Girls
THREE CHILDREN WENT OUT TO PLAY. ONLY TWO CAME BACK.
The Flower Girls. Laurel and Primrose.
One convicted of murder, the other given a new identity.
Now, nineteen years later, another child has gone missing.
And the Flower Girls are about to hit the headlines all over again…
Title: The Flower Girls | Author: Alice Clark-Platts | Publisher: Raven Books | Pages: 352 | ISBN: 9781526602145 | Publication date: 24th January 2019 | Source: ARC .mobi from Net Galley
‘The Flower Girls’ is a twisted, twisting mystery that kept me guessing right up to the last page. It’s also a thoughtful, challenging and shocking examination of an emotive subject that avoids easy answers and is all the more powerful for it.
The setup is simple but Alice Clark-Platts does a lot with it. In the late 1990s two young sisters, Laurel (10) and Primrose (6) are accused of the murder of a 2 year old girl, Kirstie. Laurel is found guilty and sent to prison. Primrose, who is under the age of criminal responsibility, goes free and she and her parents start a new life under assumed names. Skip forward to the present day and Laurel is still incarcerated, whilst Primrose (now Hazel) is living a normal life and is staying at a hotel with her boyfriend. When Georgie, a young girl who is another guest at the hotel, goes missing, Hazel finds herself a suspect again.
That premise contains two mysteries, what has happened to Georgie and what really happened to Kirstie. Clark-Platts does a good job of teasing them both out throughout the book. The investigation by local police into Georgie’s disappearance is laid out in convincing, if not painstaking, detail; while the truth of the past crime against Kirstis is revealed through flashbacks as Hazel gradually rebuilds her memory of it. The two strands are woven together nicely as the book progresses and both kept me engrossed right up to the end.
Throughout, the book is populated by convincing characters. There are a lot of them too, for a relatively simple narrative, but they are always distinct and I never found myself confused as to who was who. Importantly, they all have motivations and drivers which are believable, even if the reader might not always agree with them. The police investigating the disappearance, the staff and other guests at the hotel, Georgie’s parents, all slip in and out of the narrative effortlessly, building a convincing picture of an ongoing investigation.
What really impressed me though, was the attention that Clark-Platts pays to the continuing impacts of the original crime on the people involved in it. The victim’s family, including her aunt who has built a career as a campaigner for victim’s rights. Laurel who has grown up in prison, and her lawyer uncle who has devoted his life to seeking her release. The details of their lives are moving and thought provoking and really add to the richness of the book.
The end result, then, is that ‘The Flower Girls’ is an engrossing and accomplished mystery, but beyond that it’s a brilliant examination of how society treats children who kill. It’s not always easy reading, but it’s definitely worth your time. It kept me guessing and thinking from the first page up until the chilling conclusion.