Nobody was more excited than me to get their hands on THE ROSES OF MAY, the sequel to the amazing thriller, THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN. I'm picky about thrillers and think a lot of the ones out there are crap, but THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN was that 1 book out of 100 that stayed with me, haunted me, and kept me on the edge of my seat, desperate to know what happened next. When I found out there was a sequel, I was stoked as a stoat.
ROSES OF MAY isn't really a direct sequel and I think it could be read as a standalone, although there's some insider information and side character cameos that might be confusing for people who haven't read THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN. Priya is a seventeen-year-old girl suffering from grief and depression and an eating disorder, exacerbated by her sister's gruesome murder several years before. Now, it looks like her sister's killer has found her yet again and she's going to be the next target.
The killer is actually pretty creepy and reminded me of a Criminal Minds episode. S/he thinks that women should be innocent and pure, and watches the various young girls who catch their eye to ensure that they adhere to their standards of purity. The ones who do die gently, so s/he can take care of them forever and keep them "good girls." The ones who exhibit wanton behaviors are brutally raped and violently murdered, as punishment. S/he's a highly messed-up individual.
Unfortunately, the process of catching the killer is hindered by department politics as the policemen's new supervisor kind of has it in for them and is reluctant to connect previously unrelated cases without solid evidence of Blues Clues-level obviousness. One of the cops is a family friend of Priya, so he takes this especially hard. Also complicating things is the trial for the Garden, where many of the ex-Butterflies are having trouble adapting to the "real world" and exhibiting obvious post-traumatic stress in the wake of the Gardener's trial and his one surviving son's arrest.
THE ROSES OF MAY isn't really a very good book. Even if it hadn't been connected to one of my favorite mystery-thrillers of all time, I still don't think I would have been super pleased with it. There are too many POV swaps, and apart from the killer and his creepy and unusual way of displaying the bodies, there wasn't much to make it stand apart from the many other serial killer novels out there. I did like Priya a lot, though. I'm a sucker for books that write about damaged women in a way that still portrays them as whole beings who are full of agency. Priya had a lot of issues but they didn't define her, and I really liked that. I also liked her relationships with the war veterans she played chess with and Inara, one of the Butterflies who reached out to Priya because of their shared tragedy.
I'm not sure I'm as eager to read the third book now, since this one was such a disappointment. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't nearly as good as I was expecting, and felt like it was an entirely different subgenre of mystery-thriller, which makes it extra weird that they're linked in a series.
2.5 out of 5 stars