“Mmm, sounds like chicklit” was the comment I received from several people who enquired what I was reading. But Flowertown is anything but. Perhaps if I’d had the paperback, with its apocalyptic cover, rather than the Kindle version… (another problem with technology!). Flowertown belies it’s gentle name to tell a disturbing story about corruption and violence, and the extremes of human behaviour, and I loved it.

Ellie is mostly stoned and doesn’t bother too much with personal hygiene – her soldier lover, Guy, isn’t too bothered either. But why bother making an effort when you’re a blue-tag, and not going to survive to see a life beyond the small Iowa farming community where you’ve already been quarantined for seven years?  The pesticide contamination was so severe that most of the community died, and the survivors are in lockdown. Ellie’s room-mate Rachel is on a shattering new drug regime in the hope that she’ll be clean enough to leave Flowertown temporarily for her sister’s wedding, but the price is risking death; Bing, Ellie’s best friend, is a paranoid stoner constantly trying to embroil her in crazy escapades; Big Martha is her boss, standing between Ellie’s antisocial behaviour and the armed forces. And Ellie is just dying, slowly, and getting increasingly pissed off at the ever-present security and the constant regime of enforced medical assessments.

Then this claustrophobic community is rocked by several seeming terrorist attacks, and security tightens. Ellie’s big mouth lands her in hot water and she’s soon on the radar as a trouble-maker and potential suspect. But is Bing right to suspect that the community is up to something, and what is the significance of the phrase “all you want”? Ellie finds herself dragged in to conspiracy and reprisal and as the shocking truth is revealed, it’s up to her to save her fellow survivors….

This is a gripping story with several major twists which really surprised me. I loved the characters, particularly Ellie, who is refreshingly psychotic and grungy for a heroine! And there were several cameo characters who made the horror and tragedy of the contamination really strike home. It’s action-packed and rollicks along at a great pace, maintaining the sense of isolation and hopelessness, and of time that has become interminable, but is running out far too fast. I thoroughly recommend this novel, and I’ll certainly look out for more by this author. Rating: ****

Thomas and Mercer, 2012, ISBN 9781612183022