The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
***** 4.5 Cranky Stars *****
The story opens after the escape of women kept by a serial killer - The Gardener - who's selected his 'butterflies' in terms of beauty. Butterflies, real and metaphoric, have short shelf lives and the women who have been kidnapped live with the sword of Damocles over their heads.
Any infraction - from behavior to imperfections - will result in an expiry date with The Gardener.
Central is the woman known as Maya. Questioned by the FBI, she doesn't respond in a way that 'normal' victims do. I found this a really interesting take because Maya flouts social convention in that victims are supposedly obliged to give up all rights to dignity and privacy in the quest to justice.
In this regard, Maya is frustratingly circumspect in her account to the FBI unveiling her story in her own time and on her own terms.
Told in equal parts first person and third, the story plays with chronology as Maya takes us from the past in order to show how it informs the present. The author's descriptions and turns of phrase were beautiful to read, even if the subject turned my stomach.
I found The Gardener a chilling character. Someone who uses his wealth and privilege to hide his monstrous behavior, but at the same time, constructs his own self-perception as someone who loves and cares for his victims. If that's his idea of love - he can keep it.
Enter into The Garden not so much a serpent, but a savior. I liked this play on the biblical thematic. Knowledge is one thing, but action is another.
I have to say, the "twist" at the end didn't work for me. In fact, I thought it undermined a lot of the story that had been before and also, it was (so far) unnecessary.
All in all, however, I would recommend it to thriller readers. In this genre, I have to say that The Butterfly Gardener was one of the better ones.
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