Young and deadly killers

06 Mar 2019 / 10:24 H.

ALICE CLARK-PLATTS, in another life, was a human rights litigator who worked for the UK government, and handled such high-profile cases as those involving Winnie Mandela and rapper Snoop Dogg.

However, since moving to Singapore eight years ago with her family, Clark-Platts (pix) has found a new career as a writer.

Her first novel, Warchild, was shortlisted for the Impress Prize in 2013. She then took an online writing course and, in 2015, came out with her second book, Bitter Fruits, which introduced the character, DI Erica Martin.

Martin also played a pivotal role in Clark-Platts’ following book, The Taken (2016).

But, in her latest novel, The Flower Girls (2018), she introduced another female character, Detective Constable Lorna Hillier, as the chief investigating officer of a crime that is both disturbing and compelling – children who killed.

The Flower Girls is the name given to two young sisters, Laurel and Rosie aka Primrose, who are implicated in the murder of a toddler called Kirstie.

Only the older one, Laurel, goes to prison for the crime while Rosie, who is considered a minor, is set free and given a new identity together with the girls’ parents.

However, 19 years later, a child goes missing in the hotel where Hazel aka Rosie is staying. Once the media gets wind of who she really is, The Flowers Girls hit the headlines once again.

Clark-Platts, in a tele-conference call, said the subject of child killers was something she had wanted to write about.

She explained that in criminal law in the UK, a child is held accountable for murder only if the child is eight years and older.

“I wanted to write a story about two siblings in that age group where one would be tried and one wouldn’t be.”

She said that in looking up child murders, she also read the 1993 James Bulger murder case, where the two-year-old toddler was abducted, tortured and killed by two 10-year-old boys who were later sentenced to prison for the crime.

Irish filmmaker Vincent Lambe recently revisited the Bulger case in his controversial documentary, Detainment, which was nominated for the best short live action film Oscar this year.

“It was weird that the documentary came out around the same time as the book because it certainly wasn’t planned,“ Clark-Platts explained.

In The Flower Girls, the only ones still fighting for their loved ones after nearly two decades are Laurel’s uncle Toby who also happens to be her lawyer, and the dead girl Kirstie’s aunt Joanna.

When asked why she concentrated on these characters, Clark-Platts said: “One of the reasons is that the characters developed on their own accord.

“Toby and Joanna came to the fore as the only [caring] adults left in these children’s lives.

“Another thing is that it would be harder to write from the perspective of the parents. I wanted adults who loved them and were involved with what is happening but I also wanted some distance so they would not be bewildered by the events.”

Being a mother of two herself, Clark-Platts admitted that she felt uncomfortable at times while writing this book.

“But that is my job,” she said. “I can’t shy away from issues just because they might remind me of things in my own life.”

So she opted to remain emotionally detached from the story, especially when it came to laying bare her own emotions as a mother.

Her previous books were standalones but The Flower Girls left room in its ending that could easily be continued with another book.

“I wanted the end to be open,“ Clark-Platts said. “I wanted the reader to be left with some questions.

“The whole reason was to make people think about these issues, about what makes for punishment for a person that young who commits a crime like this. Can people be rehabilitated if they committed a crime [at] that young [an age]?

“I did not want to tie everything up with a nice happy bow because I don’t think life is like that.”

Though she has been living in Singapore for some time now, her stories are still set in Great Britain.

“I am always going to be British and that is where my characters come from. [However] I have not ruled out writing a book in Singapore or Malaysia or anywhere in Southeast Asia.”

Besides novels, Clark-Platts has also written short stories that have been published in various anthologies. When not writing, she runs The Singapore Writers’ Group which she founded in 2012.

email blast