Review: The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts
‘Is this what marriage is like? she wonders. A constant balancing act between infatuation and impatience.’
At first glance, it appears as though The Flower Girls is going to be a pretty cut and dry thriller. A girl disappears from a hotel on New Year’s Eve, and when a terrible storms starts raging outside it’s a race against time to try to find her – and the person responsible for abducting her.
Hazel is terrified that the finger of blame will be pointed her way, because she has a secret. Her real name is Rosie, and she’s one of the infamous Flower Girls: the moniker given to her and her sister, Laurel, who was convicted of the brutal murder of a toddler when she was just 10 years old.
Rosie was unable to be tried – as a 6-year-old she was too young to face trial – but even the trauma of seeing what Laurel did to the poor girl caused her to wipe it from her memory, the entire day a completely blank space in her mind.
Hazel’s life is good now. She’s in a long-term relationship with a man called Jonny, who she thinks is preparing to propose. She gets on with his teenage daughter, despite the fact that she’s definitely not old enough to be her mother. She doesn’t want all of that to be ruined.
But when an author staying in the hotel recognises her and forces her to come clean to the investigating officer about her identity, Hazel is catapulted back into the spotlight – and back into Laurel’s life, too.
The Flower Girls is more than just a mystery novel, it’s an exploration of the meaning of family. Laurel is abandoned by her parents and her sister, but their uncle Toby supports her throughout the years, representing her over and over again as he regularly tries – and fails – to get her released from prison. Meanwhile, Hazel finds herself a new family in the form of Jonny and Evie, telling Jonny the truth about her past and feeling pleasantly surprised when he accepts her anyway.
It’s also the perfect starting point for many different moral discussions. Can a child truly be evil? Or held accountable for their actions in a legal sense? Is it more important to examine biological or sociological in these kinds of cases? What exactly constitutes a life sentence? My mind was racing at multiple points while reading The Flower Girls, and I found myself needing to put it down to gather my thoughts into some kind of order. These were topics I’d thought about before but was examining in a completely new light, and I loved the fact that Alice Clark-Platts took a basic idea and elevated it to such heights.
The way the story is told is genius, too. The first half of the book is propelled along at a breakneck speed, as the search for Georgie is extremely time-sensitive. Meanwhile, flashbacks are laced throughout the unfolding events, throwing us back in time to when Hazel was Rosie and the original crime was committed. I was eager to know what happened in both aspects of the plot, and I found myself racing through the present day chapters to dive back into the past, then wanting to get back to the present as quickly as I possibly could.
It’s been a while since I’ve been this captivated by a thriller, as they seem to have become so repetitive and predictable in recent years. Although there were some twists I saw coming throughout The Flower Girls, the ways that they were revealed were fresh and interesting, and there was a big twist that had my jaw dropping open and made me want to reread the entire book with this information in mind (something I’m still considering doing).
I requested The Flower Girls from NetGalley on a whim, because it seemed like the kind of book I’d probably enjoy, but I didn’t have my expectations too high because I was sure it wasn’t going to impress me. I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this story, and I’m planning on going back and exploring some of Alice Clark-Platts previous releases to see if they’re as good as this one.
The Flower Girls is going to be one of the biggest releases of 2019, I can feel it.