Review: The Roses of May – Dot Hutchison

The Collector #2

SYNOPSIS: Four months after the explosion at the Garden, a place where young women known as the Butterflies were kept captive, FBI agents Brandon Eddison, Victor Hanoverian, and Mercedes Ramirez are still entrenched in the aftermath, helping survivors in the process of adjusting to life on the outside. With winter coming to an end, the Butterflies have longer, warmer days of healing ahead. But for the agents, the impending thaw means one gruesome thing: a chilling guarantee that somewhere in the country, another young woman will turn up dead in a church with her throat slit and her body surrounded by flowers.

Priya Sravasti’s sister fell victim to the killer years ago. Now she and her mother move every few months, hoping for a new beginning. But when she ends up in the madman’s crosshairs, the hunt takes on new urgency. Only with Priya’s help can the killer be found—but will her desperate hope for closure compel her to put her very life on the line? – via Goodreads

I gave The Butterfly Garden a read quite some time ago, and while I liked it, I didn’t love it. It requires a lot of suspended belief before you can get into it, but if you picture it all happening in some alternate reality, it works. I was interested to see how Hutchison would continue the story of the escaped butterflies and all the trauma that followed, so I picked this up at the first opportunity I got.

The Roses of May is completely different from what I was expecting. For one, the butterflies are not the focus of this one or the aftermath of the explosion. This is not a bad thing at all, just unexpected. In a series titled The Collector, I was expecting more of… I don’t know, the Gardner collecting more girls? His trial? Anyway. The story focuses of a young girl named Priya, whose sister was brutally murdered years ago by a serial killer, and it is likely he is stalking her. We get a long look into Priya’s life and mind and relationship with her mother Deshani, and it is something I quite enjoyed.

The agents of The Butterfly Garden return, and we learn so many more things about Eddison, Hanoverian, and Ramirez. I find that really interesting, as in the first book they were just there as the officials getting the story out of Inara, whereas here they are characters with lives and emotions and everything. I was interested in how Hutchison brought Priya, Bliss and Inara together, too, and thought it worked quite well.

The Roses of May is a little predictable, but the writing (I feel) is more solid this time around. It reads faster and with less drag. I know there is a lot of comparison in this review between  this and the first book, but the first book essentially set things up that this was to continue, and made the agents minor characters, etc. so the expectation going into this was totally different.  While predictable, it does not take away from it being an entertaining read nonetheless. I enjoyed reading about Priya in the park with the veterans playing chess, and it was nice to read about the relationship between Priya and Eddison, too.

The Roses of May is worth the read, that’s for sure. Hutchison polished up some of the issues from the first book, and gives us another compelling story to get into.

Review: The Butterfly Garden – Dot Hutchison

the-butterfly-garden-cover

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.