Written by Steve Mosby — The sixth book from Mosby, Black Flowers came out last year and hit the longlist for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year. It’s gained an excellent reputation amongst readers who enjoy something darker and scarier in their crime fiction mix. This is not a story about a girl who disappears – it’s the story of a little girl who comes back…
Opening with the appearance of a small girl holding a black flower on a seafront, this story instantly has you hooked. Full of psychological impact, it burrows into your mind from the first page, and comfortably sets up camp in its dark recesses until the last page.
Neil Dawson always wanted to be a writer like his father. Neil has a pregnant girlfriend, and a job he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. He begins writing a short story, and it becomes apparent that the main theme is veering towards his trepidation about fatherhood. When said father commits suicide, Neil sets about retracing his life to find answers as to why his father killed himself. Then his girlfriend is abducted, and Neil is thrust into the world of The Black Flower, a seemingly ordinary piece of fiction which Neil soon realises seems to mirror real life events.
Another thread of the story deals with Hannah Price, who joined the police following in her father’s footsteps. Finding evidence of something from her own father’s past sets up a heart-stopping, emotional ride in which the lines between fact and fiction are blurred. Her story intertwines with Neil’s as she uncovers the truth behind the dark secret her father carried for years.
Mosby’s writing sets the bar high for crime fiction, guiding the reader to images both beautiful and horrific via imaginative prose. He turns seemingly ordinary settings into much more, going beneath the surface and exploring surroundings in a way some modern writers do not. Neil’s character is well drawn and it’s impossible not to empathise with him and the supporting characters while the plot twists and turns. Black Flowers was my favourite book of 2011.
Whilst it is perhaps easy to describe Black Flowers as a book within a book, with passages from the novel Neil finds in his father’s affects being referred to throughout, it is much more than this. I particularly enjoyed the exploration of the relationships both the main characters had with there fathers. While not quite as gory as his past books, this novel is nonetheless remarkable for its dark imagery, and one of the most macabre and horrifying reveals I’ve read in crime fiction. It is a dark psychological thriller, incorporating crime and horror elements, creating a novel which is hard to fit into any one genre other than excellent.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars