The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

Many thanks go to the publisher, Thomas & Mercer, as well as to NetGalley for sending me a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I first saw The Butterfly Garden on the AmazonFirst promotion but, because of a previously bad experience with that offer, I didn't buy it. However, I did think of this book a few times afterwards and was delighted when it appeared on NetGalley shortly afterwards. It was one of the books you have to "wish" for and, for the first time, my wish was granted. I took the chance, and I wasn't disappointed.

The story is told primarily from the point of view of an 18 year old girl, who is introduced early on as Maya, who has been rescued from a very horrible fate by the FBI. She tells the agents about the Garden, a place where many girls, aged 16 - 21, can be found, all with different butterflies tattooed on their backs. Why are they there? What fate awaits them? Well, Maya tells us in no uncertain words. The girls are regularly raped and then, when they reach 21, or get pregnant, or cannot live there, the Gardener murders them and preserves their bodies in the corridors of their new home.

As you can imagine, this is not a read that the squeemish among you would enjoy, but the story is very well told. It flows from one point to the next as if in an interview, which is the main style of the writing. The characters are all as colourful as the butterflies decorating their backs. Even Avery, the gardeners eldest son and a really nasty human being, is well created and you cannot but love to hate him.

It is hard to feel sorry for the Gardener himself, but there are times when I could understand that he wanted to protect the girls, that he "loved" them, in his own special way. But underneath that, he was a raper and murderer...and kidnapper, of course!

I'm not sure who I would recommend this book to. It reads like a young adult version of silence of the lambs, without the cannibalism and chianti! If you do not have a delicate stomach, you may well enjoy this read as I did.

Star rating: 4 from 5