The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson
Published by Thomas & Mercer
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Adult, Crime fiction
For fans of: Law & Order SVU, Exit Pursued By a Bear
My rating: 5 stars out of 5
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.
When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself.
As her story twists and turns, slowly shedding light on life in the Butterfly Garden, Maya reveals old grudges, new saviors, and horrific tales of a man who’d go to any length to hold beauty captive. But the more she shares, the more the agents have to wonder what she’s still hiding…
TRIGGER WARNING: Rape, Violence, Murder
This book was awful. But in the best way.
I thought I’d read just about every serial killer/rapist thriller you could come up with. I thought Law & Order SVU had shown me every story I hadn’t read. And then I read The Butterfly Garden.
This book opens with two FBI agents trying to solve a case they’ve just uncovered. They don’t know much, besides that the place they have just discovered a place called The Garden, and it was the prison to around thirteen girls who their captor liked to call The Butterflies. They know he abducted these girls, some as young as sixteen, and brought them to a glass prison near his family mansion. They know he tattooed butterfly wings on their backs, gave them new names, and raped each and every one of them.
But, as you’d know if you’ve watched any cop show, this isn’t enough. If the FBI wants to solve this case, if they want justice served, they need to know the entire story. And this is where Maya comes in.
This book, as awful and as chilling as its story got from time to time, was beautiful. It was brilliantly crafted, and wonderfully complex. It reads like a movie, constantly flipping from Maya’s first person recounts of life in The Garden, to the third-person present, where Maya is being interrogated by Special Agent Victor Hanoverian and his partner Brandon Eddison. And everything is so vivid. One minute you feel like you’re detective Hanoverian, questioning Maya, listening to her story and forming your own opinions about this strange, unusually calm girl. The next you are Maya, inside her mind while she does her best to survive in The Garden, while she tries to be a figure of comfort and sorority to the other Butterflies.
And then sometimes, you’re an outsider, watching the events from the corner of the room because what’s happening is just so awful, so gruesome, that you have to detach yourself.
Considering that the book begins after the girls have been rescued, you wouldn’t think there’d be a sense of urgency or thrill factor. But you’d be wrong. Hutchinson weaves her tale with remarkable skill, and you’re always at the edge of your seat, turning page after page to just try and understand what’s going on.
The Butterfly Garden was dark, heavy, and painful at times, but it still managed to find moments of light and humor. It was a bittersweet tale – a story of monsters in the world, and love, family, and strength. And it was a hundred different kinds of messed up. There was this one reveal at the end that I wasn’t a very big fan of, but honestly? That’s just me nitpicking. It took nothing away from the painful beauty of this book. It’s one of those books that you just don’t forget.
And the fact that I might read this again is mildly concerning to me.
I received a copy of this book from Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.