Opening sentence: “Rosie was aware of nothing apart from her sister’s shadow.”
The title of this book may seem innocent, however the plot is anything but. In 1997, Laurel and Primrose (known as Rosie) Bowman lure toddler Kirstie away from a playground. Soon after, Kirstie is found murdered, with signs of torture. 10-year old Laurel was convicted of the crime and sent to prison, while her six-year old sister, Rosie, was deemed too young to be tried for it, so along with their parents, was given a new life and identity: Hazel Archer. Hazel has moved on with her life and never visits her sister. We meet her years later, she is spending NYE in a hotel with her boyfriend and his daughter when a young girl goes missing and Hazel is terrified comparisons will be drawn between current events and her past. Despite being given a new identity, can she ever really escape being one of ‘The Flower Girls’?
There is an interesting dual plotline; the second focuses on Joanna, aunt of murdered toddler, Kirstie. She has dedicated her life to ensuring Laurel remains in prison and is adamant she is never going to forgive her. This thread looks at the idea of redemption and forgiveness, as well as just how many people are affected when one terrible incident occurs and adds some thought provoking moments.
Throughout the book, real-life killers and child murder cases are referenced; most famously James Bulger‘s killers. I was young when this case hit the news and remember being truly shocked by it, so to make The Flower Girls even more visceral, as I was reading the chapters that referenced this case, it once again popped up on the news. The killers’ names literally came up as a news alert on my phone as I was reading about them; so weird when things like that happen. A little disturbing, but it did work to give The Flower Girls a really authentic air.
With snappy chapters, an easy-to-read writing style and plot-elements teased at just the right moments, it is impossible to stop turning the pages. However, The Flower Girls has a far more sinister ending than I was expecting (I know, I know, given what I’ve told you the book is about, I probably shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was!) I think it’s the fact that I have small children that makes a plot like this so visceral and unsettling to me and maybe because it pushes the characters in ways you don’t initially expect. But you don’t exactly start reading a book about child murder thinking it will have a sweetness and light ending, so in that respect it was brilliantly evocative. Truly chilling, it had me thinking about it for a while afterwards.
/ Published by Raven Books 2019
/ 331 pages
/ Rating: 4/5