I loved the 1967 opening chapter of Dead Flowers by Nicola Monaghan. It had humour, darkness and interesting characters – good start. From this point we come right up to date (2017) and meet Sian Love, ex DCI and now a Doctor specialising in DNA analysis. She is moving into her uncle’s old pub (which features in the opening chapter). It was left to her in his will which surprised the family. The setting (and some of the language) is Nottingham which gave it a Northern bite which I liked. Many of the chapters are musical references which looked interesting.
Dead Flowers continues with parts set in the 1970s and the rest with Sian in 2017. Almost the first things she discovers about her uncle’s pub is that there are bodies in the cellar. She doesn’t trust the police any more and it is just possible that this concerns her family. If she investigates will that cause problems with the police and just what might she find out?
I found the atmosphere authentic in both the eras covered by this story. The dialogue felt well crafted and is colloquial at times. The characters in this were definitely good enough. Sian herself was excellent and I found her convincing. More minor characters were good too and I did like the character of Big Pat (Walsh). The first thing people said about him was he “wasn’t a man you talked about”…. Nice!
For me this book started well and generally got steadily better. I was increasingly drawn into this tale of death in the 70s and life in the present day. This is one of those slightly unusual books where I can honestly say I liked the ending and hadn’t seen some of it coming. If I have a minor quibble the musical references in the chapters didn’t seem to lead anywhere particular. There is a group involved in the early part of the story but this device didn’t go anywhere interesting to me.
I would certainly recommend Dead Flowers to people who want a good UK crime read. It’s not quite in the league of Joseph Knox or AA Dhand but it does get close for me. This is not quite so dark nor as violent (quite) as their books but that is no bad thing. Definitely 4.5/5 and I really would like to read another book with Sian as the central character – I hope there is one.
Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review
I mentioned Joseph Knox in this review and my thoughts on his last book are here