Morgen’s story review no.161 – OxCrimes 17: Christopher Fowler‘s The Caterpillar Flag

19 Mar

Today’s book review of a single short story (the seventeenth in the 27-story charity crime anthology OxCrimes collection) is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.

I rarely read ‘proper’ books (paperbacks / hardbacks) and I’d wanted to read this collection for a while so bought it as a paperback so I could sit and read at least one short story a day. (I’m also writing short stories for competitions and submissions too and have sent three off in the last week!).

If you’d like your short story or writing guide reviewed, or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Being a writer and editor, I read and review books with both hats. If you’re a writer reading this review and found it useful, do let me know.

The OxCrimes Collection

OxCrimesFor 2014, Oxfam and Profile Books have turned to crime in order to raise a further £200,000 for Oxfam’s work. OxCrimes is introduced by Ian Rankin and has been curated by Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival, where it will be launched in May. The stellar cast of contributors will include Mark Billingham, Alexander McCall Smith, Anthony Horowitz, Val McDermid, Peter James, Adrian McKinty, Denise Mina, Louise Welsh and a host of other compelling suspects. Profile Books have raised more than a quarter of a million pounds for Oxfam by publishing OxTales (2009) and OxTravels (9781846684968) (2011).

This collection is available via and

Review of Christopher Fowler‘s The Caterpillar Flag

This is a short short story (15 standard book pages) so a short review…

I’ve mentioned in a previous story about liking to learn of other countries and cultures, and here we have Spain, which I’ve been to a couple of times but not to the area mentioned (Cadilla).

In the first few pages, there was a lot from the narrator’s point of view where he talks about Lily and her family settling into life in Spain.

There is an innocence to Lily, but it is all so narrator–heavy that it feels like the synopsis of a plot rather than the story itself.

We soon meet a quirky character called Celestia, who is brilliant. Lily, as our main character, should have been more lively but she – through the eyes of the narrator – just seems to be an observer rather than a particular ‘do’er.

One of my favourite lines is, ‘The last of the nuns had died of disappointment in 1973’, and I would have loved this as the story’s first sentence.

And now for writers…

  • I have also said in previous stories about the use of characters with the same first initial, and here we have Lily and Lola; both four-lettered L names, albeit Lola a more minor character.
  • I have also mentioned before about being careful with genders and here we have three females in one paragraph: Lily, the Queen, and Celestia, and the ‘she’ in the subsequent paragraph – although I know is Lily – could have referred to Celestia as she was the last mentioned female in the previous paragraph.
  • A little later on, a character is shouting and waving at someone behind Lily. Then the next sentence is, ‘She had a parcel wrapped in brown paper…’, and because we have just had Lily’s name, it could be read that Lily had the parcel, rather than it belonging to the woman shouting (Maria).
  • Another editing error that we have had before is to not have a clean section break where time passes, and in this instance we go from one day to the following morning just changing paragraph, rather than leaving a blank line then starting a new non-indented section.
  • And finally, for those of you who have been tracking the amount of ‘well’s used at the beginning of dialogue (as in hesitation) in the stories, we fortunately only have one this time. <Hoorah!>


There was lots of authorial voice where the narrator says things like, ‘how her father wouldn’t have the same temptations, whatever that meant’, which I liked, but for me there was far too much from the narrator rather than the characters themselves.

Although this is the crime anthology, there was very little crime in it (a brief mention partway through then a hurried mysterious hint at the end), but it didn’t really matter as it was a charming story.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I shall be back tomorrow with my review of Louise Welsh’s Reflections in Unna, the eighteenth story in this collection.


Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a freelance editor, online tutor, prolific blogger, 2015 Head Judge for the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction CompetitionRONE 2015 Judge.

As well as a teacher of creative writing (and writing-related I.T.) for her local county council and online, Morgen will be one of five tutors at the 2017 Crime & Publishment alongside two top crime authors (details t.b.a.).

Morgen’s first love is writing and she is a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog,, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on TwitterFacebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page) and has created five online writing groups. She also runs a free monthly 100-word writing competition where you can win her online creative writing courses!

Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has nine others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on

She also helps other authors with an inexpensive freelance editing and critiquing service (free 1,000-word sample), and welcomes, and actively helps to promote, guest authors on her blog – see opportunities.


If you would like to send me a book review, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Related articles:

*** Breaking news! My online creative writing courses are currently just £1 or $1-2 each
but only until 3rd April! ***

You can subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app via or Alternatively, you can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything (see right-hand vertical menu).

You can contact me and find me on the internet, view my books (including my debut novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping Listvarious short story collections and writer’s block workbooks) and If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating. Thank you.

Morgen Bailey Cover montage 2I now run online courses – details on Courses – and for anyone looking for an editor, do take a look at Editing and Critique.

If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 19, 2016 in writing


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We'd love you to leave a comment, thank you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: