(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Pat Flower wrote within two mystery traditions: the police procedural and the novel of psychological suspense. Her novels featuring Detective Inspector Bert Swinton, however, have little in common with the gritty realism of novels by such police-procedural writers as Ed McBain. There is a playfulness about the series, evidenced first by the titles, all but two of which allude to Flower’s surname, yet there is also often a disturbing undercurrent to the action that does not disappear with the resolution of the case. Flower enjoys foiling the reader’s expectations; Swinton is not always correct in his deductions. Twists of plot and surprise endings are the norm, and characters tumble in and out of being the most unlikely suspect.

Flower’s psychological suspense novels have their share of surprise endings, but the overall mood is much darker and the novels more successful. In these stories, murder is almost incidental; Flower’s emphasis is not on detection but on the revelation of character. She depicts characters caught in webs of their own making, their images of themselves destroyed by circumstances, their self-delusions exposed; or she portrays seemingly normal people who are gradually revealed to be mad.

Flower is not well known in the mystery field and her books received few reviews, but certainly her novels of psychological suspense deserve more attention than they have yet received.

Pat Flower Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Klein, Kathleen Gregory. Great Women Mystery Writers: Classic to Contemporary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Contains some reference to Flower and helps place her among her contemporaries.

Knight, Stephen. Continent of Mystery: A Thematic History of Australian Crime Fiction. Melbourne, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1997. Study of the dominant themes and concerns distinctive to the crime fiction of Australia. Sheds light on Flower’s works. Bibliographic references and index.

Macdonald, Virginia. “Pat Flower.” In Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers, edited by John M. Reilly. 2d ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985. Discussion of Flower’s crime fiction, its relative merit, and its relation to both British and Australian culture.

Nile, Richard. The Making of the Australian Literary Imagination. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2002. Discussion of prevalent features of Australian writing and the cultural and geographic influences on the continent’s literary history; provides perspective on Flower’s work.

Wilde, William H., Joy Hooton, and Barry Andrews. The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. General overview of Australian literature and culture. Creates a background for understanding Flower. Bibliographic references and index.