Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Flower Girls – Alice Clark-Platts

Psychological Thriller

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.

First Published UK: 17 January 2019
Publisher: Raven/strong>
No. of Pages: 339
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
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Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Girl in the Woods – Camilla Läckberg

Crime Fiction

Camilla Läckberg has provided this reader with another meaty read in this the tenth in the Patrik Hedström and Erica Falck. This story is lengthy and involved. Readers won’t be able to stop themselves remembering some real-life crimes, especially those involving child-killers with the most obvious inspiration being drawn from Anne Perry and her friend Pauline Rieper, not a comfortable subject at all.

The main story is that set in the present day of the disappearance of four-year old Nea Berg from the same farm that another four-year old child went missing from thirty years before. Then Marie and her best friend Helen were accused of murder at the tender age of just thirteen. This is therefore in true Camilla Läckberg style a crime in the past with parallels in the present.

What makes the disappearance of Nea Berg all the more chilling is that Marie Wall had returned to Fjällbacka in her role as Ingrid Bergman in a new film. Marie had used the crime she was accused of thirty years ago to help propel her into Hollywood stardom, and it had worked but she had not set foot back in the small Swedish town since she left all those years before. Helen meanwhile had married a local man aged eighteen and lived a quiet life now mother to a teenage son she is fearful that Marie’s return will encourage the story to come to life again.

The chapters each cover many viewpoints each including scenes at the police station as our old favourites interview witnesses, pour over forensic reports and the ever dependable station chief Bertil Mellberg gives television interviews and interferes in Patrik Hedström’s handling of the case. As always it was great to catch up with everyone in Fjällbacka’s Police force and it does provide some much needed light relief in this dark and disturbing tale.

Erica already had a book in the pipeline about Stella Strand and her two accused killers and so when parallels are drawn between the crimes she is on hand with her notes so far, and the interviews she continues to hold with key people from the time.

Interspersed with the current investigations and happenings are chapters on The Stella Case giving the reader insights that haven’t necessarily been discovered, including those thoughts of the lead investigator. Intriguingly there is also a far older tale to be told that of Elin Jonsdotter in Bohuslän in 1671, what relevance this strand has remains a mystery for much of the book. If all that wasn’t enough the author includes another strand about Syrian refugees.

I enjoyed this greatly although I was reminded why I normally save these novels as holiday reads; The Girl in the Woods is a whopping 592 pages long and packed full of information which doesn’t necessarily lend itself to short bursts of reading. For the first time in this series I did have moments where I wondered if the author had been slightly over-ambitious in the amount of different strands that run through the book, not that it was confusing, far from it, but the read felt far darker overall than the previous books in the series, and they were hardly laugh a minute reads. However, if you are a fan, as I am, there is much to feast on not only while you are reading this book but there are bigger themes and philosophical questions to ponder long after you finish the last page.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to HarperCollins UK who allowed me to read advance copy of The Girl in the Woods before publication on 22 February 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 22 February 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages: 592
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Books in Patrik Hedstrom and Erica Falck series

The Ice Princess (2002)
The Preacher (2004)
The Stonecutter (2005)
The Gallows Bird (2006)
The Hidden Child (2007)
The Drowning (2008)
The Lost Boy (2013)
Buried Angels (2014)
The Ice Child (2016)