YOU’LL NEVER FORGET THE FLOWER GIRLS
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..
At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 4.03 out of 5
24th January 2019 aka TODAY by Raven Books
Rosie was aware of nothing apart from her sister’s shadow. It spiked, jagged and black, across the stippled, sunburnt grass. She skipped inside its edges, her white leather sandals dipping into the cool before springing out, feeling once again the blister of sunlight.
I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
After I finished reading this I walked away thinking that I would give it 3 stars. I felt that while the book was nothing amazing it was still an easy read and compelling enough to keep me going back.
Then I kept thinking about it. Over and over. The more I kept thinking about it the more I realised that I didn’t want to give it 3 stars after all. I actually wanted to give it 2 stars. So I did.
I don’t like ‘downgrading’ books from what I originally rated and I don’t do it often. So why did I do it here?
On reflection, The Flower Girls is a fairly average crime thriller. A murder was committed many years ago, someone was arrested for it and justice was served. Flash forward nineteen years to a cold winter day at a hotel where a young girl goes missing (but who is found quite quickly).
The story comes into play because one of the guests is a young woman aged 25. Nothing remarkable perhaps aside from the fact that she’s one of the titular ‘Flower Girls,’ a term coined for a pair of sisters (aged 10 and 6) who tortured and murdered a toddler those nineteen years ago.
Laurel, aged 10, was the one convicted for the crime and has spent her life in prison. Rose, aged 6, was the one deemed too young to be responsible and was given a new identity. We now know her as Hazel.
The tension comes from two factors; did Hazel have something to do with the disappearance of the girl at the hotel and exactly how involved was Hazel in the original murder?
Maybe this isn’t what I was expecting it to be. It was compelling enough for me to continue reading but I didn’t feel like the stakes were high because sadly I could see the ending coming at me like car headlights. Maybe we were meant to work it out. Maybe I’ve just watched a lot of police dramas on TV.
The characters are not particularly compelling. We sit inside the heads of Hazel, Laurel, Max (a writer at the hotel who wants to use the information he knows on Hazel to benefit his career), Hillier (the cop trying to solve the disappearance of the missing girl), Joanna (aunt of the murdered toddler) and Toby (uncle of Laurel who is trying to get her parole).
That’s a lot of character perspectives for a crime thriller.
Unfortunately I feel the author was using the larger cast of characters and their varying perspectives to weigh in on the debates of ‘is evil born or created‘ and ‘when can we say someone has been fully punished for their crime‘ but this just didn’t fully work for me. The characters became devices rather than fleshed out characters and because there’s some unreliable narrators involved I actually felt a little cheated with purposeful misdirection.
Maybe I just wanted a more terse, psychological thriller and uncertainty. I never ask for uncertainty in stories but I wonder if here it would have been used for better effect.
But I’m probably saying that because I just didn’t like the ending. And as that’s the last thing you read in a book (shocker) that’s probably another reason why I changed my rating from a 3 to a 2.
I would have preferred uncertainty to the author’s ending which seems to concretely answer the question of ‘is evil born or created’ while simultaneously not providing any answers of substance. It’s hard for me to further elaborate without spoilers and I don’t want to spoil.
Now I must be completely honest with you and I hope it doesn’t offend: –
As mentioned before I found The Flower Girls to be a fairly average crime thriller. But I think the reason why this book is so hyped is because it benefits from the ‘sensationalism’ of having two young girls murder a baby.
And this is where I can’t separate my subjectivity from objectivity.
It’s a piece of fiction. Yep. Fine. It’s a piece of fiction that made me feel uncomfortable. Yep. Fine. The ending made me feel uncomfortable. Fine.
The frequent references and comparisons to a real life case in order to highlight how shocking this fictional murder was made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t feel so fine.
If you’re comfortable with this, that’s fine (and no, this review is not about how many times I can use the word ‘fine’ even though it does appear to be a lot) but I didn’t like it and ultimately our reading experiences are personal because we’re humans not robots.
The real life case often referred to and I believe acts as inspiration to ‘The Flower Girls’ is that of Jamie Bulger which happened in the UK in 1993. If you want more details I suggest Google but it is horrid and involves two ten year old boys torturing and murdering a two year old.
The problem I have is that The Flower Girls references Jamie Bulger a lot. I feel this is to get the readers to fill in the blanks as to how horrifying the fictionalised crime is but a) that’s lazy writing, b) the author doesn’t provide any intelligent insight into the crimes, c) the book sensationalises the crime and glamorises Hazel without providing a narrative as to why this is not a good thing.
Like I said – I can’t separate my subjectivity from objectivity. This is on me. I didn’t like something and I didn’t like it enough for me to rate the book 2 stars.
Even if I remove the subjectivity then sadly I think this is an average crime book using sensationalism to give it a boost.
Maybe I should just stick to Agatha Christie.