1. The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison
Many people, including me, see butterflies as an expression of new life, hope and freedom. This beautiful symbolism is strongly juxtaposed with the violence and degradation displayed throughout this novel. The Butterfly Garden will leave you feeling unsettled, a little bit turbulent, surprised and disturbed, but it will certainly not leave you feeling ambivalent. If you can look past a few minor inconsistencies, and focus on the disquieting story in front of you, you’ll be taken on a transfixing and original adventure into the mind of a deranged man – an undesirable venture, but one you probably won’t want to withdraw from. The Butterfly Garden centers around a ‘collection’ of beautiful young women, older than 16 and younger than 21, who have all been kidnapped and elaborately tattooed by the same twisted man – the Gardener.
This story unfolds with Maya, one of the survivors, telling her story to the FBI after they finally discover the secret garden. Her tale is warped and puzzling, and in turn, leaves the police with more questions than answers. The plot includes a distorted blend of rape, kidnapping, love and hate and then to really muddle up your mind, they thrust a bit of Stockholm syndrome into the mix. In one word this book can be summed up as engrossing and most likely my favourite book of 2017, so far. If psychological thrillers are your jam, then get your bread and peanut butter ready.
2. Crosstalk by Connie Willis
Looking for something new to read, a break from my usual jumble of thrillers, I was immediately sucked into the humour and sci-fi nature of Crosstalk. In the not-too-distant future, a simple medical procedure to increase empathy between romantic partners is the latest fad. We spend the entire book inside the protagonist, Briddey Flannigan’s head, and let me be clear that this is a very confusing and utterly annoying place to be. The story centers around her unsuccessful procedure and the hijinks that ensue. She finds herself telepathically connected to another man, as things go from bad to worse. However, things always have a way of sorting themselves out and it’s no different with Briddey and her overbearing family.
The story has its humorous moments and sweet notes, but the pacing is slow and tedious and the characters are ultimately flat and monotonous. If you’re a rom-com type of girl, then this book will be right up your alley. I enjoyed the concept, but the execution was a bit long-winded, frustrating and predictable.