Stephanie M. Wytovich
In this Garden of Butterflies
I recently read Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson---which, hello! I absolutely loved and cannot recommend enough—and one of my favorite things about the book was the massive TBR list I acquired while reading it. One of those books, The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison—book one in a four-book series—immediately jumped to the top of my list, and I quickly found myself downloading it on Audible and letting it consume my commutes both to and from work.
This book is about a man named The Gardener who collects butterflies (aka girls around the age of 16) to tattoo, display, and play with in his garden. When I heard the concept for this, I immediately got all the Thomas Harris vibes and was excited to jump in to what I hoped was going to be a marvelous, down-right horrifying thriller/police-procedural.
It’s told from the split POV of Maya (one of the captives) and then two FBI agents who are interviewing her after she’s been sprung from the garden. As such, most of the book is told in reflection, and right from the beginning, we know that she and the other girls (or at least some of them) survived, which for me, hurt the urgency and suspense of the plot arc. Furthermore, the narrators for this particular audio book were both fine on their own, but there definitely should have only been one narrator for this because the back and forth of Maya’s character being read by two narrators (one a woman, the other a man) was terribly jarring.
There was a lot of commentary on women helping women, which I truly loved to see/read, and I appreciated the points of conflict that Hutchinson set up in the book, especially with The Gardener’s sons. However, even those plot points fell short for me, plus, I really wanted to see The Gardener pushed to his breaking point, and that never once happened, and to me, that felt unrealistic, especially because I read a lot of true crime and his passive nature/mannerism didn’t always feel believable to me. I get that he loved his girls, but… spoiler alert! he’s also a serial killer, right? Essentially, I found myself consistently wanting more: more from him, more about the main character (Maya), and more about how this whole thing happened for so long and no one knew about it; I also wouldn’t have minded learning more about The Gardner—which, we do get a little of, but not nearly enough. In some ways, I wish the author would have split the POV between Maya and The Gardner, rather than her and the cops.
Now while the book held my interest from start to finish, I really wanted this story to push more boundaries than it did, and the ending for me was rather unsatisfying. I’ve read reviews for the second book in the series that said this gets expanded on some more, but I don’t know if I’m swayed enough to continue reading.
What about you? Have you continued with the series? Is it worth it?
I rate this book 3/5 butterflies.