I don’t want to denigrate this novel by calling it “genre,” like some literary snob. I guess it is technically a “thriller,” but a thriller in the best sense of the word. The issues and themes in this novel are dark, deep, complex and challenging. The characters aren’t mere cut-outs. Yes, the plot twists, lies unravel and people die, but it all happens in the context of a well-crafted fictional world that is not too far removed from our own.
“Flowertown” takes the country we know (the novel is set in the farmlands of Iowa) and shows what it could easily turn into. Seven years before the novel starts, Feno Chemical, a pesticide company, spills a harmful chemical into an Iowa town, contaminating the waterways and surrounding areas, killing almost everything in its path. The affected survivors are held under quarantine in a fenced-off village everyone calls Flowertown, named such because the chemical contaminant gives off a weird floral aroma. The government has ceded control and authority over the quarantine to the same company that created and spilled the contaminant. As demonstrated by countless chemical and oil spills in the real world, when profit-driven, unaccountable entities take charge of public safety, the public is anything but safe. The survivors are doped up with mysterious medication and controlled from dawn to dusk.
Soon, a mysterious clique of resistance rises up from within the quarantine, passing out pamphlets, delivering coded messages to other prisoners, defacing walls and company vehicles. Who’s behind it? What’s brewing underneath the surface? It’s one hell of a fun time finding out.
This book is a real a page-turner, but S.G. Redling brings the reader through the story on her terms. She writes with the authority of a street-wise investigative reporter (she worked in radio for years), and I love her punchy, jumpy style.