The Flower Arranger by JJ Ellis


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.

Filled with twists and turns, this unforgettable thriller is JJ Ellis’ first novel.


I am ashamed to admit that I know next to nothing about Japanese culture, and I will also admit that I was a little concerned that this fact would render The Flower Arranger a difficult read for me. There is the potential to go into too much depth and lose the reader, to create a world so complex and far removed that it loses sense of the plot and becomes an overwhelming overload of information. Thankfully, JJ Ellis has struck the perfect balance, his passion for the country and its culture is clear, but it never overtakes the plot, instead complementing; sprinkling a little bit of something different to the genre.

The reluctant duo of Inspector Tanaka and reporter, Holly Blain are a curious pairing. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure that I really felt their bond, the latter pages felt a little forced, but I was pleased to discover that there are more novels planned and I hope that I come to feel ‘it’, for as individuals I liked them both enormously, particularly Holly. I am more than a little bit curious to find out what JJ Ellis has in store for them in the future.

The killer himself is quite the conundrum. I found that I wasn’t chilled by him, or particularly fearful of him, but rather I held a sort of sympathy for him which was only compounded by the full reveal of his story. For me, it was refreshing to have this type of conflict. What he is doing is wrong, no question, and it is inexcusable. Yet whilst he fills the genre role of the ‘evil killer’, through the chapters which explore his point of view, I felt a sort of empathy, his view of the world is so skewed by his past that he seemed stuck in a cycle of childishness. I really loved having this perspective and insight into his mind.

As a novel, it’s a pacy thriller which held my attention throughout. I found it incredibly easy to pick up and I lost sense of time as I read, plus, despite my initial reservations, I really enjoyed the introduction to Japanese culture – it has definitely ignited my interest and I will be doing some further reading! Whilst I still need to be convinced about the pairing of Tanaka and Blain, I do, very much want to read about their future cases. I am intrigued by the promise of the final chapter, and will be looking forward to learning more about these two characters, both individually and as a partnership in the future.

About the Author

JJ Ellis was born and raised in Yorkshire in northern England, thought now lives near London. The author’s interest in Japan was sparked when a family member won a trip there by singing in Japanese at an exhibition in the UK. Several visits followed – to Tokyo and further flung places such as Ishigaki and Iriomote – as Ellis developed the idea for The Flower Arranger. Two more crime novels featuring the team of Tanaka and Blain are planned.

The Flower Arranger is JJ Ellis’ first novel.

*I received a copy of The Flower Arranger from the publisher. The decision to read and take part in this blog tour was my own, and this review forms my honest opinion.

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