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.