Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

Huge thank yous to the author and publisher for putting this book up on Netgalley. It's probably one of the best books I've received for review from that site this year. I'm rather desperate to get my hands on A WOUNDED NAME now. Authors who excel at doom and gloom are so few and far between

But Hutchison does. Oh, boy, she does.

I would be very surprised if Hutchison never read John Fowles's THE COLLECTOR - the parallels are numerous. Both are about obsessive men who compare women to butterflies and see them as sexual fetish objects to be owned and collected. Both are about women held captive who are desperate to escape. That said, I am not implying that THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN is derivative in the slightest. It is possible to be influenced by other work(s) and still make your story your own - something Hutchison does with great skill. Honestly, it reads like Gillian Flynn decided to rewrite THE COLLECTOR as a dysfunctional harem in the style of James Patterson's Alex Cross books, and it's darned good.

Maya was taken from the Garden. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are interviewing her to find out about the other girls and also about the man who called himself the Gardener. As the interview unwinds, we are left with bits and pieces of the story. The Gardener kidnaps young women and tattoos butterfly wings on their backs. He keeps them locked away in a glass harem, until they turn twenty-one-years of age. All the girls are marked with death the moment they come into his "care."

Maya had a dysfunctional childhood that forced her to become street smart at a young age. She knows how to read people and how to manipulative people, and she's not above using either of these skills in order to help escape. But as she gets to know the women she's trapped with the walls come down, and she finds herself more emotionally involved than she ever wanted to be - especially when some of her friends end up dying.

The writing in THE BUTTERFLY is gorgeous. The pacing is also really good. I found myself reading large chunks of this at a time without getting bored, which is often a good indicator of how good the author is at spinning out tension. I also loved the gritty realism in this book. One of the reasons I love Gillian Flynn's work, for example, is because she isn't afraid to write flawed female heroines or anti-heroines. Hutchison is much the same - she's damaged and can be a little cruel herself, which I appreciated, because given what she's gone through, why shouldn't she be?

I also really liked how The Gardener wasn't a stereotypical villain. He had moments of kindness, and even though he murdered and did terrible things to his was chilling, because you could tell that he didn't think he was doing anything wrong. He really believed what he was doing was love. His sons, Avery and Desmond, were also interesting characters - Desmond, especially.

Anyone looking for a good psychological thriller/mystery will do well to read THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN. It's clearly influenced by a lot of great writers, but does an amazing job standing on its own two feet. Would love to see a movie version of this book one day! Think of the costumes!

4.5 out of 5 stars.

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