Three little girls went out to play. Only two came back.
At just ten years old, Laurel Bowman is convicted of a murder so evil that it stuns the nation. Besieged by reporters and living in fear of reprisal for their daughter’s crime, her family, including six year old little sister Primrose, disappear into new identities, leaving their oldest child behind bars, almost entirely alone.
But, suddenly, nearly two decades later, Primrose – now living as Hazel Archer – finds herself at the centre of another missing child case. Little Georgie Greenstreet has disappeared from the Balcombe Court hotel, and, if anyone finds out who Hazel really is, guess who’ll be a prime suspect?
That synopsis is, actually, a little deceptive – Georgie’s disappearance is merely the catalyst for much of what follows, but to say any more than that would ruin the clever, twisting, and rather chilling narrative that Alice Clark-Platts has so deftly put together.
The story bounces between several character, including Hazel, one of the infamous Flower Girls; DC Lorna Hillier, first on the scene at Balcombe Court; Max Saunders, a writer who sees an opportunity when he works out just who Hazel really is; Joanna Denton, the aunt of the little girl murdered by the Flower Girls all those years ago; Toby Bowman, Laurel’s attorney and her last link to her family; and Laurel herself, hoping desperately for parole.
Each voice is distinctive and interesting, and the constant shifting between characters makes for delightfully uneasy reading. The moment you feel settled into a specific narrative – Joanna’s mission to keep Laurel behind bars, for example – you’re immediately thrown into the head of someone who has very different views, such as Toby or Laurel herself, and any attachment or sympathy formed is quickly replaced by new questions and allegiances. Has Laurel done her time? Were her family right to move on without her? Who took Georgie? And what really happened to little Kirsty Swann?
Bolstered by beautiful writing from Clark-Platts, The Flower Girls barrels through a head-spinning selection of emotions, and by the time the finale comes – perhaps a little anti-climactic, but still darkly satisfying – it’s almost a relief to put the book down and take a breather. Because, trust me, there’s little chance of you putting it down any earlier than that!