Over the years I have had an ongoing interest in books that portray children who kill. Not the cheeriest of subjects I grant you but I have read some really insightful fictional books that take a look at this thankfully rare circumstance. The Flower Girls was definitely at the darker edge of the subject and perhaps surprisingly less obviously based upon known cases.
Alice Clark Platts has created two characters Laurel and Rosie, sisters, who brutally killed another child one summer’s day. Rosie was just six years old on the day of the murder, far too young to be formally be punished but Laurel was sent to prison where she remains. Rosie is given a new identity to help her move on while Laurel remains in prison nineteen years on. Rosie, now Hazel is staying at a hotel when a young child goes missing and it is this that brings the past hurtling back to meet the present.
The brilliance of this book isn’t just the premise, nor is it really the plot which while ingenious is used as a vehicle to look at the wider issues surrounding all crime, but particularly that committed by a child. DC Lorna Hillier represents law and order, the hotel guests pretty much stand for the public in all their glory, most particularly those who will uee any excuse for making money and garnering publicity, of which the media are more than willing to exploit. This really is the grubby side of crime and seeing it presented as it is in The Flower Girls really brings home how awful society can be and that while there are degrees of wrong, wounds can be inflicted by seemingly minor acts.
While I enjoyed the book which is divided into parts including the ubiquitous flashback scenes taking in the murder in 1997 and the eventual reunion of the two sisters, it did seem to be trying perhaps too hard in places to stick to the psychological thriller brief complete with surprising twists and turns. I personally felt that this meant that the excellent and sensitive probing of such a complex issue got lost in some less realistic plot devices but this was really a personal and minor quibble in what was a satisfying read.
Overall this book feels very dark indeed. I think this feeling persists due to the shadowy nature of the girls’ early years and the decisions their parents make following the imprisonment of Laurel, overall this book made me feel incredibly sad for all the wasted lives contained within its pages. Understanding the parallels to society only served to underline my sadness. For all that, it was a well thought-out novel that will stay with me for quite some time to come.