Series: The Collector #1
Published by Thomas & Mercer on June 1, 2016
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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...
I’m surprised that I made it through The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison because this is one of the most disturbing things that I’ve ever read. Honestly, I’m unnerved at how captivated I was while I was reading and by how I just couldn’t stop clicking the pages on my Kindle. The way that the story is written begged me to keep going, keep going. I was hanging on every word, waiting for any little droplet of information so I could find out the answers to the questions that I had.
As the book begins, Maya is being questioned by investigators about the Butterfly Garden. They want to know what went on there, the real identity of the captives, who The Gardener was. Groups of girls called “butterflies” were kidnapped, renamed, and held captive in a garden and marked with large, intricate tattoos of butterflies on their backs. The investigators are frustrated with Maya because she is answering their questions by not giving direct answers, and the needed information is coming out too slowly. Is Maya somehow involved with the Butterfly Garden? Does she have more information than she is willing to give?
The structure of this book is pretty neat. There are no chapters, which means that the tension rises slowly and stays high. The story is told in alternating POV, so we hear from Maya and from one of the investigators.
Maya’s credibility is questionable, making her an unreliable narrator by definition. But is she unreliable, really? Or was she manipulated and brainwashed by The Gardener? We really don’t know if she is a good guy or a bad guy. She drove the investigators half-crazy with her half-answers, but I think I actually liked it. I loved trying to guess; she kept me on my toes.
Listen, you need to know that there are some places where this book is hard to read, and not just because I am a little on the sensitive side. Some of the scenes are graphic. The author is really great at being descriptive throughout the book, which made it pretty uncomfortable for me during certain parts. But the descriptions were awesome everywhere else. The author also did a great job of painting a picture of the personalities of all of the characters so we could determine which ones were truly good and which ones were truly bad. Some of them are questionable for a while, which added to the thrill of the mystery.
I think that fans of psychological stories that blur the lines of crime and mystery will like this one. It is dark and creepy and twisted. With a set-up like this, and with such a strong premise, I wish the story could have ended on a stronger note. I feel like I got to the end and the story let me down too gently and wrapped up too fast. I was expecting something big and this ending wasn’t really it. So I’m bummed about that but I’m still going to read the next book, doggone it.
I don’t typically read synopses, so I didn’t realize this one was going to be so–disturbing. So: Sensitive readers, beware. There’s your warning.