A PTA mom, Summer Peerman, falls seriously ill from aconite (wolfsbane) poisoning at an elementary school, and PTA president Kira Grant, who handed her the cup and grows wolfsbane in her backyard, is the prime suspect. Defense attorney Allison Brown takes the case, desperate to earn enough wealth and fame to leave her misogynist boss and start up her own practice.
The Darkest Flower was just so much fun to read! I absolutely love the battle of wits between Kira and Allison, and I loved jumping between both their perspectives. Allison is a sympathetic character, too street-smart to believe all her clients are innocent, yet still clinging desperately on to the ideals that prompted her to go into law school in the first place. She’s suspicious of Kira, and turned off by the other woman’s arrogance, but the commonwealth’s case is weak, and Allison needs to pay the bills. She’s also a single mother who can’t afford the piano lessons her daughter wants, so I like seeing that tension play out as she investigates the wealthy, overbearing moms in Kira’s circle.
And Kira is just the best kind of anti-hero — manipulative, scheming, and arrogant. Yet also, oddly enough, possibly innocent? Summer herself admits she can’t think of a reason why Kira may want to kill her, whereas Allison’s investigation unearths at least three other women in the PTA who had more obvious motives. It was a blast watching Kira butt heads with Allison over the defense strategy, especially since Kira pulls no punches in needling Allison about her (illicit, unethical) affair with opposing counsel, and in one fantastic scene, went downright nuclear and threatened to take the case to Allison’s a-hole boss instead.
An intriguing point of contention between them is the racism that one of the other PTA moms displayed towards Summer. (Summer is Black; Kira and all the other PTA moms are white.) Kira wants Allison to use this in her defense, but Allison is uncomfortable with Kira’s eagerness to use Summer’s Blackness to boost her own white privilege, and also with Kira’s eagerness to use her privilege of wealth against the much less wealthy other suspect. It’s a dilemma that’s wonderfully complex, and I love how Allison grapples with her client’s right to the best defense versus how ethically icky this strategy makes her feel.
The ending was one that I didn’t see coming, but it also felt absolutely fitting given everything else that happened. This is my first book by this author, and with these characters, but I would absolutely pick up a sequel, and I look forward to reading her future books.
Thank you to Thomas Allen for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.