First published back in June of 2012, US author Sheila Redling (aka S.G. Redling) released her debut novel entitled ‘Flowertown’.

DLS Synopsis:
For the residents of Dalesbrook in the rural outback of Iowa, life suddenly took on a horrific change when the Feno Chemical Company accidentally spilled a large quantity of their experimental pesticide, HF-16 LjR 4293 (aka HF-16), within the town’s immediate vicinity.  The results were catastrophic for the small community.  Hundreds of people died within days, and those that managed to pull through those painful first few years of contamination found themselves cut off from the rest of the world.  Dalesbrook was now officially a permanent quarantine zone, maintained by the US Army and the Feno Chemical Company Security alike.  Those that were held inside the town were on permanent medication for their resulting illness.  Their bodies secreting a floral sweet smell not dissimilar to that of flowers.  And so hence the town was soon dubbed ‘Flowertown’ by its residents.

Now, almost seven years since the pesticide spill, and Flowertown is suffering from a lack of governmental maintenance.  Unbeknown to the residents inside the permanent quarantine, the rest of the world is beginning to get sick of funding this expensive problem.  Supplies flowing into the town are gradually beginning to dry up.  And the resident Army personnel are slowly but surely beginning to withdraw.  Something is most certainly in the air.

However, for Ellie Cauley it’s still life as normal.  Although she was not a resident of Dalesbrook before the dreaded contamination, her misfortune has led her to become a fulltime resident trapped within the confines of Flowertown.  During the day she works in the governmental records office, sorting through the mass of paper filing.  And when she’s not working or receiving seemingly constant medical check-ups, Ellie spends a large proportion of her time getting stoned with her best friend Ian Billingsly (aka Bing).

But under the crumbling surface of this forcibly contained and regimentally run town, civil unrest appears to be slowly emerging.  With explosions destroying a number of the town’s buildings, Feno Chemical’s stranglehold on the remaining residents is suddenly getting tighter.  An underground movement begins to make itself known to Ellie and Bing.  And fears of an uncompromising governmental conspiracy planning to eradicate Flowertown once and for all start to spread.

For Ellie, her whole world is about to be turned on its head once again.  And it’s becoming increasingly difficult to know who or what to trust when it all starts to get out of control…

DLS Review:
From a short and pretty darn straight-to-the-point premise setting, Redling quickly gets underway with some lovingly worked characterisation in our principal protagonist - the feisty and inherently rebellious Ellie Cauley.  Indeed, Cauley is one of those instantly likeable miniature whirlwinds that invariably causes aggravation and mayhem wherever she goes just simply by being her.  But she’s so utterly honest, so quick witted and unashamedly blunt, that it’s hard not to love with Ellie from the minute you first meet her.

Like a pot smoking cross between Holden Caulfield from ‘The Catcher In The Rye’ (1951), Stevie Searle from ‘Slights’ (2009) and possibly even aspects of Frank Cauldhame from ‘The Wasp Factory’ (1984), the character of Ellie Cauley is a chaotically exaggerated concoction of a troubled individual who is far from willing to let those in control of Flowertown rule over her life.  And it has to be said that the comically enjoyable characterisation behind her is one of the aspects to the novel that really make it work so well.  Simply following this delightfully cynical young woman around her daily rituals is almost as enjoyably compelling as the unfolding plotline.  Furthermore, her ‘Shaggy and Scooby’ style friendship with local pot dealing Bing is a purposefully heart-warming touch to the tale, allowing the reader to really build strong sympathetic bonds with them both from early on.

Utilising the ‘bull-in-a-china-shop’ character of Ellie to guide the reader through the sudden unrest in Flowertown makes for a colourful and ingeniously unpredictable storyline.  As more and more pieces to the puzzle of what-the-hell-is-going-on begin to reveal themselves, the chaos and mayhem just snowballs until the pace is roaring along at a mile a minute.

There’s action and suspense pumped into the wildly meandering storyline almost from the word go.  Each chapter is punctuated with a purposeful cliff-hanger that ensures a continuous level of excitement and gripping interest.  And hell does it work!  This really is a thoroughly engrossing and cleverly eventful tale, with plenty of mystery, suspense, madness, mayhem and comical relief to push the storyline along at a constantly galloping speed.

All through the novel the reader knows that Redling clearly has a big plan for the tale up her sleeve.  It’s always on the cards that they’ll be plenty of dramatic twists and turns to come, but the early prompting for these twists seems always just out of touch.  And when the elaborate craziness of the heinous plot becomes unveiled in the run-up to the end, Redling throws in all she’s got with an exciting and action-packed finale, bursting with sudden twists and rich with clever revelations.

All in all ‘Flowertown’ is a heck of an enjoyable read, with plenty always going on to make it difficult to put down along with some ingenious characterisation and a final conclusion that pleasingly tempts the reader with the possibility of a sequel.  Trust me…it’s all good!

The novel runs for a total of 356 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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