Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden.
In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees … and a collection of precious “butterflies”—young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.
“The Butterfly Garden” by Dot Hutchison was a fascinating book. It’s the first book in a series (The Collector Book 1), although the rest of the series seemed a bit less successful (more on that in my next review). But, in terms of the serial killer/crime fiction genre, this was a very creative approach.
The story is told through a series of flashbacks from one of the victims, who is in the hospital and is telling her story to FBI agents. It’s not clear why she’s in the hospital or what precisely happened to her, so there’s almost two simultaneous mysteries going on: who is this girl, what happened to the Gardner, and what IS the whole garden and butterflies thing?
I think part of the reason why I found the book so interesting is because it’s actually a story about a community of young women who have to find a way to survive and keep their sanity in a world that is both beautiful and horrifying, where they are both pampered and tortured.
I also enjoyed not being in the serial killer’s head. You know, since beginning to write these reviews, I’m realizing how much I’m just not a fan of that. I think there was a time when I liked it (especially during my Dean Kootnz phase), but the older I get, the less I enjoy it.
Two things I didn’t like about this one: for a few months after I finished the book, I found myself associating butterflies with the negative, which I hated. I love butterflies and I didn’t want to associate a psycho with them (eventually, that connection broke, thank goodness).
Second, for a good chunk of the book, Dot Hutchison tried to add this level of suspicion to Maya, the young woman narrating the tale of horrors in the Garden.
Honestly, I didn’t find it all that believable. Then, when there was a reveal around her at the end … well, it didn’t particularly work for me. I felt like the author was forcing a reason to distrust Maya, when quite honestly, her story was so fascinating that we didn’t even need that angle.
Anyway, all that aside, I’d still give this book five stars.
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