“The trouble with sociopaths, really, is that you never know where they draw their boundaries.”
This book popped up in my Goodreads recommended list months ago. It had a dark creepiness factor that I just couldn’t resist. Not to mention the amount of overly sensitive people hating on it for questionable themes. If you find the topic offense, then don’t read the book. It’s that simple. No need to hate on others for being entertained by a work of fiction.
And, oh, what a chilling work of fiction this is.
I really didn’t expect to love it. Sure, I was hoping for some entertainment and to suspend my own reality for a bit but not to love it. But I did. It is a layered, thought provoking, chilling work of horror and I loved every damn page. It’s one of those books that just reached out, pulled me in, and wouldn’t let go.
We begin with Special Agent Victor Hanoverian. He and his team have brought a girl, a victim, in for questioning. She and over a dozen other girls were rushed to the local hospital after being rescued from a horrific fire. What Hanoverian doesn’t know is why the girls were there and what horrors they faced in that building.
The girl’s name is Maya and it is evident to the police that the others that were rescued from the blaze look to her as a type of leader. All of the the girls but one had detailed, intricate butterflies tattooed on their backs. It is up to Maya to explain to the police what she and the other Butterflies were doing there. The tale she tells to the police is one that would send any mother home to hug her children.
It is Maya’s job to get the police to understand what had happened to them in their garden prison. Each girl had come to the garden when they were 16 or 17 years old as captive victims of the Gardener and his son. He is an older gentleman, obviously of some wealth, that kidnaps young women and makes them, in essence, sex slaves. The Gardener loves the girls in his own way and tattoos each of them with their butterflies and re-names them as a reminder that their previous lives no longer belong to them. They then live in his beautiful garden.
“Like beauty, desperation and fear were as common as breathing.”
Sure, the kidnapping is terrible. And the rape. But what, at least to me, makes this a horror novel is what inevitably happens to the girls. Each and every one he takes only lives to be twenty-one. On their twenty-first birthday he escorts the girl to a locked chamber. A few days later she is on presentation in the hallway, completely encased in resin, her butterfly tattoo on display. For him it is art and the presentation of absolute beauty before it begins to decay. In the Gardener’s warped mind he is doing them a service preserving their beauty. It never occurs to him that he is a rapist and murderer. He is, in his own demented way, an almost likable character. Any good villain should be.
For being under 300 pages this book sure packs a punch. This psychological thriller had me absorbed until the very last page. As much as I loved this book I will admit that the ending didn’t meet the excellent story telling of the rest. It felt a little forced, like the author felt obligated to give a twist in the plot. The thing is it didn’t really need any twists. The rest of the story easily had the merits to stand on it’s own. The end just took a little bit away from an otherwise wonderful, if disturbing, story.
Admittedly, this book isn’t for everyone. As I mentioned it is not for the sensitive or those easily prone to nightmares. But, if you are into horror and cold thrillers, this is a fantastic book and I would definitely recommend it.