Review: “The Butterfly Garden” by Dot Hutchison

Title: The Butterfly Garden
Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads
Author: Dot Hutchison
Publication Date: June 1, 2016
Genre: Thriller, Horror, Fiction

Trigger alert: This book contains content including kidnap, abuse, and rape.


An Amazon Charts bestseller.

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 Amazon)


TLDR; fascinating thriller/horror with characters that range the depths of wicked, twisted, broken, and strong.

Holy. Smokes. Guys. This book hit me over the head in the best way. In this fictional story about a serial killer, the reader is introduced to a man known as the Gardener and plunged into his twisted world. The Gardener harbors an obsession with beauty and immortality, revealed over the course of the story. He creates a secret garden in which to carry out unspeakable acts against abducted women he calls ‘butterflies,’ who are routinely captured, marked, and cycled through the garden.

Here the Gardener is a character of curiosity. Seeming to imagine himself as a caretaker for the young women, he puts great attention towards their well-being for the time they are in the Garden. Yet when their time has come he has no problem ending their lives horrifically. In fact, the author alludes it might even be a comfort to him, knowing his ‘butterflies’ will always be near and unaffected by the weariness of aging. Striking an odd balance between care and ruthlessness, he wanders the Garden spending time with the women and enjoying conversation with those who have adjusted to their new life. He gradually gives them means to enjoy hobbies or other joys to pass the time. And yet he frequently visits the women through the week to take advantage of his position of power for his own needs.

How does the Gardener reconcile a genuine care for the ladies with the incontrovertible acts against them? He seems to view their fate as an act of mercy and sign of love. Here they have a caretaker so concerned with them that he takes the immense effort to prepare their bodies with beautiful, intricate designs, keep them in a lovely garden, and finally takes the time to preserve and admire them after their breath has left.

The premise of the Gardener is a complex psyche – a struggle to understand and easy to despise. But it’s easy to agree he’s extremely selfishness and delusional.

The story itself of the Gardener and his butterflies is told by a former butterfly, Maya, through a series of police interviews. Her narrative flows effortlessly. She is the perfect character to convey this story to the reader, with her candor and no-nonsense demeanor. Exchanges with the police seem natural given the context, her bluntness amusing but believable. Maya is a character that grows in your heart through the story. Her personality appears prickly in the beginning but softens over time.

While the story obviously touches on a number of very difficult issues (trigger alert: rape, abuse, kidnap), it felt as though the author made an earnest effort to approach them with a human touch, balancing it with character emotions and reactions that seemed realistic. I did wish there was more backstory into how the Gardener and his family became so deluded to think their actions were acceptable. The fleeting rationale in the book paled in comparison to the tragedy. Other than that I enjoyed the book and many of the characters. It played with the dynamics of hope, hopelessness, love, agony, and perversion while maintaining enough plot to keep me hooked. At the end you’re left with thoughts of how inhuman a person can be before we consider them a monster, and to what lengths can a soul can be stretched and still remain unbroken. I’ve seen mixed reviews for this book on Amazon/Goodreads, but I personally enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys crime novels.


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