The Collector #1
SYNOPSIS: 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… – via Goodreads
I picked this up on special on Amazon recently, and the synopsis looked interesting enough and it had a pretty good rating, so I figured why not? I must say, I think this was definitely money well spent, grabbing something out of the blue. There are issues with the book, for sure, but the minute you figure out how to deal with them, it changes the reading experience altogether. I suppose I should explain that.
The Butterfly Garden asks you to suspend reality. I mean suspend a hell of a lot of it. Sometimes you can imagine some of the things happening and seeing how that would interact in a real-world situation, but there are too many things going down that are just a little too fantastical (including a plotsie near the end). However, if you stop trying to compare this to the real world setting, you will be fine. Just read it as fiction. In fact, rather look at it like… an alternate world/reality. Don’t think about how this would be in real life. Also, realise that the characters are ridiculously unaware (the Garden being built, no questions asked about how his time is spent and why there is a giant greenhouse withing a greenhouse, etc.). Like totally blind – super implausible. Again. As soon as I had made that mind-shift, I was drawn into this.
The story is rather icky. Seriously, kidnapped girls held as a captive harem to a really sick, twisted man – interesting stuff by far. The book also deal with a lot of characters, all really interesting. I was quite the fan of Bliss – snappy, blunt, honest, I understood her. She had a point when she said the Gardener never asked them to love him. Maya was a character I went back and forth between liking and disliking, and that is not a bad thing. She was quite well written. Then there was Avery, a sick tyrant, and Desmond, a spineless fool. The book sort of tried to manipulate you into liking Desmond, and to pity him, but I couldn’t. Twisted individual that he is, weak and useless. At least the book also highlights that and runs that point home, and isn’t too sympathetic of Desmond, although it still wants you to sort of feel for him. Nope. I know that sounds confusing, but that is how he was put forth. Like him, but don’t like him.
The atrocities the girls suffer at the hands of the Gardener and his sons is awful. Truly, there are such sick things going on all the time. Eventually (and I hate to say this), you become desensitised to it, though it is still quite nasty to even consider the events unfolding for these young girls. I appreciated the bond that formed between them, and how real names were given as sad parting gifts.
I enjoyed the pacing. There were times that I thought it meandered (especially around the middle – lots of drag), and could have been tightened up, but for the most part the story just zipped along. The writing draws you in from the off, and even the style in which the story is told is something I highly appreciated. It wasn’t overly complex or anything like that, so don’t expect a super detailed, in depth book here. The jumping back and forth between the present and what happened in the Garden was seamless, effortless, and it didn’t get on my last nerve, as this style can usually grate on me. The Butterfly Garden also flies along, and is really quick to get through, though it is dark and very messed up. The ending, too, wraps things up (there is a sequel, though I see it is not necessarily delving too much into this story). I felt it was a little rushed, so I hope the sequel spends some time just tying up those last ends neatly.
This was quite an interesting read for me, one that had me hooked, one that I stumbled on totally by accident.If you are willing to forget about reality, and are okay with suspending it to the extent of an alternate reality, then I would recommend this one. Even if you can’t, and you don’t mind things not being too realistic, you might like this. I have pre-ordered the sequel, I would like to see how that goes.