Cover Image: The Flower Arranger

The Flower Arranger

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

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!
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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
Was this review helpful?
If you're after a slow burn this is ideal. It builds up a subtle creepy atmosphere and I loved that the book was set in Japan. I'm no expert on Japanese culture so can't comment on the accuracy, but I liked the feel of the book.

The protagonists, Tanaka (the cop) and Blain (the journalist) are both very likeable. I normally get a tad irritated by your generic headstrong journo, but Blain was alright. I just would've liked a bit more interaction between them.

The killer was somewhat underwhelming, as was the reasoning behind his spree, but *SPOILER* the ending revealed a connection between the killer and another character, which I thought was quite good. 

Since there are two more books planned, I'm keen to see what's next for Tanaka and Blain 🙂
Was this review helpful?
The premise of this novel really intrigued me. Mainly because I haven't read that many thriller novels set in Japan and it really helped that it had such a cool cover too. I was excited to see where this plot would take me and I was both fairly surprised and excited as to how it played out.

Holly Blain is on her way to work in Japan, sick of covering a certain area of the news that brings her no excitement, she moves here and happens to meet a detective who opens up her world to a criminal case that will soon bring back that much-needed passion for reporting as it's one issue consuming the area.

It was really cool to see two different cultures meet in this novel and how they went about not just dealing with that fact but also Holly's determination to cover this case and find the outcome alongside reluctant Tanaka. It was a really refreshing and interesting blend to see such different people share a unique story in this way and it gripped me from many pages in when the pace picked up.

Thriller novels have a place in my heart and I found this did not disappoint me at all. The pacing, character dynamics, and interesting storyline made me want to keep turning the page and following what the outcome would be between not just these two characters but how the issue they were dealing with would be solved in the first place. 

It for sure was a thriller that kept me intrigued with each new chapter opening and I actually finished this read pretty quickly because I was enjoying it that much and excited to see what really was going on in the case Holly was reporting on. I loved each movement and area and really the setting just finished the book off really well.

A really nice read overall, with a cool premise and character/ plot layout, that I will for sure being reading again sometime.
Was this review helpful?
The Flower Arranger has atmosphere in spades, a beautifully descriptive sense of place, a creepy bad guy and two main protagonists who are very different to each other creating a yin yang feel to proceedings – I thought it was great.

The cultural layers are highly intriguing and very well layered, the mystery element is clever and imaginative and bound to cause the odd shiver or two. More of a whydunnit than whodunnit we also get scenes from the killer which added huge flavour to the overall read.

I liked the nature theme, the flowers, these things of beauty used in a dark dark art and overall this was a tense and considered thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I hope we get more from Holly and Tanaka. A dynamic duo indeed.

Was this review helpful?
Holly Blain moved to Tokyo to help her career move in a different direction. Instead of covering fluffy entertainment news, she wants to cover the big, important stuff. With enough begging, her boss finally allows her to work with Tetsu Tanaka, the head of a Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police unit, for just one day a week. Can a case about young foreign women disappearing be her big break, and can she and Tanaka take the killer down?

You know that kid in high school that got *waaay* too into anime and next thing you know, they start inserting random Japanese words into conversation (that’s so kawaii!!) and started addressing people with “-san” or “-kun”? That is this book.

Seriously. If this book is in English, why on Earth are there honorific suffixes and random Japanese words everywhere? If it’s just to remind readers that the story takes place in Japan and the conversations are in Japanese, then that’s just lazy writing and an insult to the reader’s intelligence. We could make do with a few meaningful references here and there; you don’t need to remind us THIS often.

I was so excited when I got approved for this book and my disappointment is huge. Not to say that this was a bad book, of course, because it wasn’t, especially for a debut novel. The plot was really interesting and I ADORED the fact that we had a sapphic protagonist, but every time I read "Tanaka-san” I cringed so hard I almost died. Honestly, if the weeaboo-esque wording was changed, this could easily be 4-stars. (There's also something to be said about how Blain is portrayed to be so perfect in everything Japanese (no accent, perfect grammar, can sit in a traditional way for ~~hours~~ unlike those other foreigners!) but I'll let it slide this time.)

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for providing me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
A thriller set in Japan. A detective meets a journalist/wanna-be-crime-journalist recommended by the owner of the Cafe. And together, with their ups and downs, uncover a flower arranging criminal. With beautiful descriptions of the cherry blossom, the daily/tourist life and how people's backgrounds sometimes catch up to them, this was a book that kept me hooked. Secrets that can change the course of the investigation, and how sometimes even when you know the danger you are in, there are things still worth pursuing. 
This is my personal opinion of this book, but I have netgalley to thank for a free review copy.
Was this review helpful?
Absolutely the best part of this book (for me) was the examination of Japanese culture – even though our hero (a journalist who is desperate to be the crime reporter) is perhaps a sub-culture inasmuch as she is pretty much a non-conformist in terms of appearance and friendships and relationships.  I have a little knowledge about the culture and was therefore acclimatised to the extreme formality and this certainly added to my enjoyment of this unusual detective story.

The two main characters, the reporter and the detective were interesting even though our relationship with them was limited, a structure perhaps to illustrate the formality.  Whatever, it certainly worked for me.  

Perhaps I struggled a little when following our avid reporter as she went from one part of the country to another – clearly not helped by struggling with the Japanese names – but that was a small price to pay for the enjoyment the book gave me

Thank you to the author, publishers and NetGalley for providing an ARC via my Kindle in return for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
The Flower Arranger is a really readable book. I enjoyed the inclusion of Japanese culture, it made it refreshing in comparison to other crime novels. 

Another refreshing change is that it’s so easy to read. JJ Ellis creates a lovely flow of words that I found so easy to get on board with. 

My only negative is that the characters had little depth. It may be a reflection of the Japanese politeness, but even internal thoughts were PC. Where’s the passion?

Overall it’s a nice story and I did enjoy uncovering the truth. 

Was this review helpful?
The premise of this book is enticing. It has a great storyline and the synopsis piqued my interest. When I got into reading the book though, there just wasn't much to keep me invested. At about 50% the way through the book, I found that nothing shocking had happened yet and I felt no attachment to any of the characters presented. At the very least I thought the chapters that seem to be from the murderer's point of view would keep me reading but at some point, I even felt the urge to skim those pieces as well. Due to the lack of momentum, I wasn't able to finish the book to find out what happens. (And even that's not really bothering me much.)
Was this review helpful?
Overall a decent story that keeps you wanting to read. The two main characters have an interesting dynamic and their duo works well for the plot. The antagonist is creepy, in a good way but could have had more time devoted to him early on. If you like crime dramas this is for you.
Was this review helpful?
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.

The Flower Arranger was my first literary trip to Japan. In addition to being a well-written thriller, I found myself immersed in the Japanese culture and wanting to do my own research to get a better picture of the places described in the book. I found it to be the perfect virtual vacation and summer read.

The story of Tanaka and Holly is your classic roving reporter-seasoned detective relationship. Holly, a British transplant trying to make it in the male-dominated field of Japanese journalism, has been given the pop-culture beat. An easy news cycle of filled with J-pop and fashion. Holly has no idea how this knowledge will later help solve the case that gives her her big break. Working with Tanaka, a hardened police detective with a deep past, they reluctantly combine forces to solve a string of grisly murders. Someone is kidnapping girls and posing them with intricate flower arrangements. Can Tanaka and Holly work together to save the last missing girl? Or has Holly gotten too close to the story?

The Flower Arranger was a welcome change from your typical thriller. Fast paced, and set in Japan, I would definitely recommend adding the Flower Arranger your TBR!
Was this review helpful?
The Flower Arranger by author JJ Ellis was a good book. It had mystery and thrill as well as great characters! I would recommend it!

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for an arc copy of this book in exchange for an honest opinion.
Was this review helpful?
Holly Blain moved to Tokyo hoping she could move from reporting on fluff pieces to real news. Meeting Tetsu Tanaka, head of Tokyo’s Metropolitan police, seems to be a step on right direction. He’s not so sure, but a recent rash of kidnappings has left the city gripped by terror. In order to keep the women of Tokyo safe, Blain and Tanaka will need to team up. A new story highlights a major new talent
Was this review helpful?