From the Book Jacket…
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.
TITLE: The Butterfly Garden
AUTHOR: Dot Hutchison
PUBLISHER: Thomas & Mercer
GENRE: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Psychological
AMAZON: The Butterfly Garden
WEBSITE: Dot Hutchison
A DELUDED BILLIONAIRE with a fascination for butterflies abducts beautiful young girls and turns them into a human collection for his personal amusement and admiration. Trapped in a flourishing garden under an impregnable dome, the girls must adjust to their prison and follow strict rules. Beauty has an expiration date, and the gardener has found a chilling way to preserve the magnificence of his creatures. As a survivor recounts the victims’ experiences inside the garden, FBI agents try to piece together a shocking tale of obsession. But this girl was the gardener’s favourite butterfly. Is she truly a survivor or is she hiding something?
But my wings couldn’t move and I couldn’t fly, and I couldn’t even cry. All that was left to me was the terror and the agony and the sorrow.
The POV switches between first and third-person perspectives during an FBI interview. Hutchison uses split screens to show Maya’s real-time reactions to past events, followed by the investigators’ present-day responses to the tale she’s narrating. This style works to weave a dark story of perversion. Severe trauma manifests in odd behaviour, and Maya’s detachment in telling the story is appropriate. Through the first-person perspective, the reader follows the various degrees of Stockholm syndrome experienced by Maya and her co-captives.
Maya becomes a somewhat unsympathetic protagonist because of the antagonist’s favoritism. Her submission shows her protective nature to her fellow hostages because her attempt to attach with the antagonist empowers her to seek favours for the less revered girls in the garden. Due to abandonment and neglect—as delineated through her backstory—Maya’s passive compliance with the antagonist’s rules is plausible.
I’d sat on a black-and-red painted horse and finally understood that my parents didn’t love me, or at least didn’t love me nearly enough. That day I finally understood— and accepted— that I wasn’t wanted.
The antagonist’s psychosis and his delusions concerning his butterflies’ affections are well developed. There is sufficient dissimilarity between the secondary and tertiary characters to illustrate emotional complexity when conditions force people to pick short-term survival (hope) or immediate death (acceptance).
Some readers will find the acquiescent behavior of the captives implausible. Some will expect the girls to form a collective and fight. Given the circumstances of their abduction, confusion, and fear, it is reasonable for them to choose submission. The girls are between the ages of 16-20 and most have limited life experience. Like a beaten dog who cowers to its master, the obedient response is realistic. They cling to tenuous hope and have faith that rescue is imminent. If they obey, they can stay alive long enough to be saved.
Mama always says, where there’s life there’s hope. I’ll hope.
The setting heightens the sense of foreboding as the girls execute day-to-day activities. The beauty of the garden and illusion of freedom strongly contradicts the macabre reality in which the girls live. This juxtaposition symbolises the antagonist’s insidious manipulation.
I stepped through the echoing cave and into the falls, letting the water pour over me and wash away the sourness of sickness and coming death.
If you like action-filled suspense, you won’t find it here. Split screen reading stalls the pace of a novel; however, the literary device works to develop the protagonist and to show the shifting attitudes of the FBI agents as Maya’s story unravels. It is the simmering anticipation that thrusts the plot forward, and the prosaic passages build that sense of unease.
This is an excellent story. It is a dark, unapologetic tale of the lengths humans will go to cling to life and I highly recommend it.
WARNING: This book contains graphic imagery and disturbing subject matter that is not suitable for all audiences. The content deals with the oppression of women and includes adolescent abduction, rape, and murder.