The Flower Arranger

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 29 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

The Flower Arranger takes places in Japan where reporter Holly Blain and police detective Tetsu Tanaka must race to catch a suspected killer before a girl becomes part of a twisted flower arrangement.

Taking place against the backdrop of the sakura season, Ellis creates a fantastic story of cat-and-mouse where the killer always feels just out of reach. I couldn't get enough of this book and raced through it, desperate to catch the killer as well as learn more about the characters.

The inclusion of an LGBTQ+ character was an added bonus that I very much appreciated.

I hope that there will be more books following Blain and Tanaka soon!
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The Flower Arranger is wholly unique, new in a sea of mysteries, and certainly worth reading. Although the antagonist is quite creepy, (as is the case in most mysteries, I suppose), his creepiness certainly has a depth of meaning, which, although tragically heartbreaking, makes sense toward the end of the novel.  I enjoyed reading the well structured plot; it truly is extraordinary. I fully enjoyed getting a taste of Japan, as well. The story takes place in various venues in Japan, from big city Tokyo to remote seaside villages. I give The Flower Arranger the  highest marks.
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Holly Blain is quite new to Tokyo and wants to make her mark as a crime reporter. Covering the entertainment wasn’t exactly what she envisioned when she thought about her reporting ambitions.

She is delighted when she is introduced to Inspector Tetsu Tanaka from Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police’s Gaikoku-Jin unit. He could be her way to gain the scoop to further her career.

Tanaka isn’t so sure about Holly and keeps her at arm’s length.

Wow…. just wow.

The Flower Arranger is the debut novel from JJ Ellis but it won’t be the last I read from this author.

Told from the point of view of Tanaka, Holly and the killer, this book pulled me in from the moment I picked it up. I found it compelling and quite frankly unputdownable.

I had what I call itchy book fingers when I was forced to put it down. I just wanted to pick it up and continue reading.

The setting is so vivid. I have never visited Japan but I could see myself walking the streets with the characters. I felt totally emerged.

Tanaka is a strong and believable character. He’s an honourable policeman and wants to do his due diligence. He is one for the rules and his reaction to Holly was an interesting one. His relationship with her has a fascinating arc to it and I certainly want to see these two together in another novel.

Holly was more of an enigma to me. Not a lot is given away about where she’s come from and what has happened before she reached Tokyo. This is a book in itself I think and one that I would also read. There is certainly more to Holly than we see here. She and Tanaka are total opposites but they work.

It took me a few pages to get my head around who everyone was. Not a bad thing, just me.

I found this novel to be a wonderfully engrossing novel full of mystery and twists. I didn’t know, even when reaching the last few pages, how it was going to end. I was transfixed.

Bravo to the author. This has joined the list of one of my favourite books from this year. A great crime debut and the making of a spellbinding crime solving duo.
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If I had tried to read this book before I visited Japan I'm sure I would have had to look up references, places and Japanese words. The characters names would have been unfamiliar to me. Armed with the benefit of having visited most of the places in the book and having learnt the basics of greetings etc and a possessing a smattering of appreciation of Japanese culture, I was able to fully concentrate on the book itself and appreciate it more. 

A slow start to the book, but once it got going I was hooked and had to finish it as fast as I could. The killer and his motive would only really work in Japan and that is the great hook of the novel. 

An interesting angle was the English reporter Holly who is working solely in show business reporting and the  J-pop world wants to branch out into crime reporting. She has a few things holding her back, she is female in what is still a mainly a male dominated society and a foreigner. None of this however deters her. I loved her strong character, even if at times I was on the edge of my seat willing her to maybe not be so headstrong.

This book is written by an English author and the difference I found in this book from others set in Japan and translated from Japanese, is the phrasing. Some of the words I don't think the Japanese people would use, they are rather the equivalent in English. So for me occasionally this dialogue rang less than true. However, the locations described in the book and the journeys undertaken were so accurate it took me right back to my time in Japan. It was the closest thing to being back there in person.

It appears that there will be more books featuring the Inspector and Holly and I will be eager to read those too.

I am giving the book 5 out of 5 stars. My thanks to netgalley for the ARC to review.
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I had mixed feelings about this. but this is in no means a negative review. I loved the fact that it was set in Japan - one of the many places that are on my list to visit, even though some of the Japanese names were hard to pronounce in my head!  The characters were great as standalone and the storyline was great, it kept you twisting and turning until the very end. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a thriller!
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And now he knew what was wrong with the arrangement. It was the Ma… the negative space… There was only one thing beautiful enough to fill it and — finally — she was with him. Ready, if not willing, to play her role.
Holly Blain wants to cover real news. The entertainment beat — pop stars and teen trends — was not why she moved to Tokyo. When she meets Inspector Tetsu Tanaka, head of Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police’s Gaikoku-jin unit, it might just be her big break.
Tanaka isn’t so sure. Always one to do things by the book, he’s hesitant about bringing this headstrong reporter into his carefully controlled investigation.
But young women keep disappearing and Tanaka is given no choice. He and Blain must trust each other if they are to stop a tormented killer from bringing his twisted plan to its shocking conclusion.

This is a great thriller debut from this author.
Great world building that is so descriptive. I felt I could just see it all as I was reading.
Wonderful well written plot and story line that was so gripping from the beginning.
Character that have been fleshed out well and were interesting to read about.
Can't wait to read more from this author in the future.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC. I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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Wow. I really really enjoyed this book, particularly the setting. I’m not sure if it was due to the fabulous setting of Japan but this thriller felt fresh and interesting to me. I would definitely recommend reading this book.
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It took me a while to get into the space of this story. Set in Japan, the workings of a young journalist and the police force were at play here. That part of the story telling was just the same as any other. There were places in the mind set of the murderer or pursuer of the young girls who were his victims that was the hard part to fathom.

Two young women, one Swedish one French go missing. The Swedish girl's body is found. No violation, but just a small wound on her neck which indicates the blood drained out of her body systematically. The why of it could only be explained by the attacker himself in alternate chapters and this was the part that was culturally different. He wanted someone to be replicated by the image he had of his mother who used to make up as a geisha in chalk white make up and he was always on the look out for girls who were very pale who could be made to look paler and paler.

When Blain starts her pursuit of the story successfully and publishes her findings, it upsets the Japanese detective put in charge of the case. Foreigners involved make it more delicate and the subject is one that has to be handled with kid gloves. Alternating between Inspector Tanaka and Blain and the attacker the story goes on quietly but forcefully towards an end.
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"And she was his - captured to create a fleeting moment of haunting beauty."

This book is anything but disappointing and dull. This fast-paced, suspenseful, thrilling real page-turner is set in Japan. Thanks to a travel diary I read a couple of months back, I am truly fascinated with Japan and its culture. 

Holly Blain, a showbiz journalist, who has moved to Japan aspiring to be a crime journalist, becomes fortunate enough to get acquainted with inspector Tetsu Tanaka. They both end up being entangled in the secrets behind the of a missing French and a Sweden girl and end up by the body of the Sweden girl, traces of flowers around her body. The duo really turned out to be quite perfect to each other even amongst the trials that were thrown in their way, questioning the police/media relationship. The story moves on to find the killer and, how his past and present collide, is also written amidst the chapters.

Even when Holly and Tanaka came off to be opposing forces at certain moments, both are synchronised in uncovering and hunting the killer down. What I really loved about Holly, obviously her obvious aspect, is her determination and willpower. Somewhere in the book, Tanaka thinks about how this strong woman is trying to work really hard to excel amongst the men. Tanaka and the killer are Yin Yang to each other. When the plot moves on, there are wisps of something dark in Holly's past seemingly going unnoticed. In the end, it is pretty much made clear. Thanks to the author's fore note, I got a glimpse into what some words mean and familiarisation of the locations.

This book didn't fail to be absolutely compelling and immersive from the very first page. I regret not having time to finish it in one sitting. I would absolutely love to read more of Holly and Tanaka's adventure! This book definitely needs to be appreciated more. I didn't expect the ending so that is really an incredible thing! The writing comes off precisely and I loved the slight poetic touch to it. Even the book had the essence of a poetical journey and I really admired it! The imagery felt ethereal and creepy, all at once. As someone once said, the true magic lies in the hands of the writer, not the story - this book is the example! Looking forward to more by J.J. Ellis!

Recommended: To Millenium series, The Fall, Silence Of The Lambs fans (Note: Even if it isn't dark as the books I mentioned, it comes near to them in certain aspects of the story and writing) and anyone interested in Japanese Culture blended with a thriller, this book is for you!
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This is a debut novel by JJ Ellis and I think it is a great first one! I found the story interesting and I wanted to keep reading to know how it will pan out. I haven't read anything like this before!

I really enjoyed learning about Japanese culture but I did find I had to stop reading and google a few words, to understand their meaning haha, but it was definitely a great insight to Japan and their culture.

I liked the relationship development between Blain & Tanaka, as much as their characters did clash, I enjoyed the dynamic! I would like to know more about Blain's life before she went to Japan because I feel like there is a great story there.

As much as I disliked the killer, he frustrated me, I did start to feel sorry for him due to certain things throughout the book. However, I am so glad how it ended, I think it completed the book really well!

I am interested to see which direction the next book will take and would love to see more development between Blain & Tanaka.

Overall, it was a good in-depth, interesting and original thriller!

The Flower Arranger is out now! So if it sounds like something you would like then go buy it!!
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3 for neutral.  I was very sad, because so many loved this book and I thought I would as well, but was just not able to get into it and enjoy enough to finish.  Will update if able to read and enjoy at a later date.
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The Flower Arranger is an atmospheric novel seeped in layers of Japanese culture. The beautiful imagery transported me into this different world that I knew relatively little about. But amongst the beauty is something dark. Someone is using the pretty flowers to create macabre and unnerving arrangements that they then put on public display. Holly Blain, an ambitious young journalist determined to make a name for herself, and Detective Tetsu Tanaka, are hunting him. But he manages to stay one step ahead and evade capture. As the pressure mounts they know they must get results or heads will roll and the careers they’ve worked so hard for will be damaged.

The two protagonists are an unlikely duo, a yin and yang as it were. Blain will do anything to get her story and to finally realise her ambition of working on the crime team at her newspaper, and while Tanaka finds himself fighting against red tape he’s someone who likes to do things right. As they try to learn to work together these differences often lead to clashes, chaos and battles against each other to get to their man first. They’re also hampered by Japan’s bureaucracy which makes it almost impossible to find out any real information about their suspect. I liked their relationship and thought it made them more interesting to read than if they’d been instant best friends that worked together really well. 

The antagonist was sinister and bizarre - a perfect bad guy. I would get shivers down my spine reading his dreadful, creepy and unhinged thoughts and behaviour. The flashbacks gave an interesting insight into his motivations and how he turned out this way. 

I really enjoyed this book. The descriptive writing drew me in and gave me an education on a culture I knew relatively little about while keeping me guessing about The Flower Arranger. It started off a little slow but was fascinating from the beginning and soon picked up the pace. I felt Tanaka’s frustration as the suspect slipped through his grasp and I felt Blain’s desperation for that top story. I was on the edge of my seat as we approached the end, fervently hoping for them to succeed and am still recovering from that ending and those haunting final sentences...

I would recommend this book if you enjoy mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction. JJ Ellis has written a tense and chilling debut and I can’t wait to see what he does next. 

Thank you to Agora Books and Netgalley for my copy of this book.
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Immersive, suspenseful, unusual, this book almost defies description. The pride and seeing are sublime, and both foreign, and yet engaging and familiar. The story, though a bit OTT at points was still an incredible read.  I found I finished it in only a few days, it was that good.  So good that I missed my bedtime, twice!
I will be revisiting the book, and nearsighted author with interest!
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Holly Blain is a Showbiz Journalist but aspires to be a Crime Reporter. A mutual friend from her favourite Cafe, introduces her to Inspector Tetsu Tanaka from Tokyo Metropolitan Police. A missing person case leads to the break Holly needs and when a body is found at a landfill, the 'cat and mouse' chase begins to find the suspect. Will the career-driven Journalist or the dedicated Inspector locate the suspect first or will they work together to unravel the case?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and couldn't put it down. The classic "who done it?" intertwined with the introduction to Japanese Culture was compelling. The dynamic between the two main characters works well and you find yourself involved in the guessing of what will happen next and where the story will take you. 

I would highly recommend this read!
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Dark art with a twist of murder and a spice of cherry blossom and orchids.
It's a feel of cultural mystery in this newest debut work from JJ Ellis and he scored big league as there's plenty of thrilling action, suspense, and mystery to entice us all.
The Flower arrangement looks like a morgue sketch...
I'm sorry that's not how it should be but in this case exotic young and beautiful woman are turning up dead and there's two protagonist running rampant.
A tragic past with twin suicides and a death of a foster mom could be to blame but who knows anything anymore .
What one does know is that the negative space at the center of the arrangement is our clue.
As readers we also learn about a sick twisted warped mind of the killer who draws blood to get the perfect coloring.
What does Geisha have to do with this story?
Good question but I'm not spilling the beans so you must get a copy of this one as you'll want to learn about the OSAKA killer and these crazy as all hell injections.
I'll never look at a floral arrangement the same after this thriller!
Kudos to the author JJ Ellis and thank you for this ARC in exchange for this honest review.
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This book definitely ticks a lot of boxes for me personally-

Queer female journalist
Set in Japan
Interesting serial killer
Good writing
Great pacing

Not perfect and I don't read a ton of detective novels but I couldn't put this one down. Blain reminded me of Karen from Daredevil and she is one of my favorite characters of all time- both of them are journalists and are absolutely fierce when it comes to getting their story. The actual flower arranging concept was interesting and appropriately creepy. The few issues I had were the way some of the clues that came to light seemed a little too convenient and easily solved but, the setting made up for all of that for me, personally. I've read a few other books set in Japan (some well done, some not) and this felt grounded in Japanese culture and did a good job examining some of the social customs surrounding their pop stars (girl groups). 

If you love Japanese pop culture and detective/thrillers with proactive main characters this one is for you!
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I really enjoyed this book for many reasons. I have never read a crime thriller based in Japan. I found it to be more than interesting how the police hierarchy works and what detectives are allowed to do and not. I found it a very rigid system. The story itself was good I enjoyed the main characters and I liked how it incorporated the police and journalism side to an investigation. It’s funny because I thought this book was translated from Japanese but when I researched it a bit I found out it wasn’t translated which confused me about some of the writing. 
For a debut novel I really enjoyed it.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in return for an honest review.
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The Flower Arranger was an immersive and suspenseful thriller which I really enjoyed reading. For a debut novel, the writing and plot was solid and I was impressed by the subtle tension that JJ Ellis was able to create throughout.

The novel focuses on reporter Holly Blain who wants more challenging stories to write about than the entertainment section. Holly wants in on the crime beat, however her boss is sceptical and doesn’t believe she has it in her. It’s a stroke of luck that brings Holly and Inspector Tetsu Tanaka together as a string of European girls go missing and strange floral arrangements appear around Tokyo and neighbouring cities. Could the two be linked?

Usually I find police procedural thrillers difficult to get into and sometimes they can be a bit dry but it really worked in this book and I really got into it. I think it helped that the novel was fast paced and there was always some development in the case, it didn’t drag for too long and the two main characters are quick witted and smart. Tanaka and Blain make a good team and I look forward to the sequel so more of their dynamic can be explored as well as Blains mysterious past.

Another element I enjoyed about the novel was the setting. While I haven’t been to Japan myself – yet! I have an admiration for Japanese culture and cuisine so it was interesting noting the different references, places and language used in the novel. While I didn’t know all of the terms in the story, as I was reading on my kindle it was easy to highlight and do a quick search of any terms so I got up to speed quickly. I liked that JJ Ellis chose to include the Japanese phrases as I learnt something new.

I found that the killers motive and backstory was unique and definitely creepy, although I was a little underwhelmed by the final standoff and thought it could have been more exciting or with higher tension. There was just something missing there for me but it was still a satisfactory conclusion and it didn’t bother me too much. Would I re-read this novel? Probably not, but it was an enjoyable one time read and that’s okay with me. I would still read the sequel as I’m intrigued to find out what case Tanaka and Blain tackle next.

Review will be posted on my blog: 12/09/2019
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This was a most unusual book.  It is set in Japan, where several young, European girls have disappeared.  Then one is found murdered, her body displayed among flowers.  Inspector Tanaka is on the case, and becomes involved with Holly Blain, a determined English girl who was working as a reporter on a local newspaper.

I was very unaware of the police procedures in Japan - and the amazing fact that an autopsy is not automatically arranged when there is a suspicious death, but only when the police can prove it is a murder!  

The author handles the Japanese terms very well, so foreigners are not confused and the tempo of the story is not lost.  Tanaka is a sympathetic hero, with a tragic back story.  Holly's history is kept more under wraps - maybe there'll be a sequel and we'll learn more! I do hope so.

Very interesting and enjoyable.  I'd love to learn more about Japan through these characters.

Thank you to NetGalley and Agora Books for allowing me access to the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I loved Holly and liked Tanaka and found them a good duo
Really enjoyed the setting of Tokyo and Japan and learning-bits about the culture
The story itself was gripping and enjoyable and all in all a good and unusual read
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