The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

The Butterfly Garden (The Collector #1)
By Dot Hutchison
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
ISBN13: 9781503934719
Pages: 276
Genre: Thriller/Mystery


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…


*Warning – this book contains scenes of rape & violence.

The Butterfly Garden is a tale of abduction, abuse and secrecy that will certainly work well for some and should be avoided by others due to the graphic nature of the content. While I did not find it to be too overwhelming, it is fair to say it has the potential to be very unsettling.

“Three butterflies for a broken girl: one for personality, one for possession, and one for pettiness.”

Abducted and branded with lavish butterfly tattoos, young girls are forced to live out their allotted time within a garden their abductor has created for them. His “butterflies”. Stripped of their true identities with the only real escape being death, the girls have learned to live within the confines of their prison. That is until a twist of events will expose the truth and reveal this dark secret.

We are introduced to Maya as she is being questioned by two FBI agents after a harrowing escape from The Garden. It is through Maya’s account of events that we are told the grisly story of The Gardener and his Garden. One man who harbors a monstrous obsession with beauty and the “home” he has built for his victims. But Maya’s story leaves even more to question. What is it that she is not sharing?

I am slightly divided on my feelings for The Butterfly Garden. There are a multitude of elements that work so well within this twisted tale, yet there are also a couple that depreciated my experience.

Our protagonist Maya is complex. She consists of many layers that are slowly peeled away, revealing a young woman who has suffered greatly. Yet she hasn’t in the traditional sense. She has hardened. Refusing to be defined by the past she has run from. It was easy to establish an instant connection with a real respect and concern for Maya that only grows as the story progresses. But as she continues with her recollection with the two FBI agents, we realize there is also an air of uncertainty surrounding her. She is hiding personal details and aspects of her life. We are left to decipher whether this is due to her desire to separate herself from her dark history or something even more. I thoroughly enjoyed her.

The plot is not entirely new. Many thrillers and mysteries revolve around abductions. But the concept of the Garden is original. And it is terrifying in its own right. I do not want to elaborate much further on this because the revelation is a large portion of the experience, but the butterflies and their fate are one that resonates and lingers. The Gardner is the epitome of nightmares.

“The trouble with sociopaths, really, is that you never know where they draw their boundaries.”

The Butterfly Garden brilliantly touches on many facets of the human mind and psych. It delves deep into what happens when living is the only option and escaping has been removed from the equation. I found my brain running through a barrage of possible effects on the victims that included shock, hypervigilance, denial, and total submission. How does one learn to survive? Can one learn to survive?

“It was a strange kind of pain, choosing to lie there under the needles and let him write his ownership into my skin.”

The narration transitions seamlessly from past recollections up to the present events, cleverly divulging a fascinating story at a consistent pace. The Butterfly Garden offers  up a somewhat unique and compelling perspective through Maya’s interrogation. So what was it that ultimately subtracted from my experience?

Two things: 

  1. There was never a sense of urgency or panic.
  2. The ending completely fell apart for me.

I am willing to attribute the lack of tension and suspense largely to the fact that the story is being told from in hindsight from a survivor. It is evident that Maya sees matters for exactly what they are and has learned to adapt to each situation as necessary. She is in part desensitized due to all she has encountered in life. But it was monotone at times. It felt almost awkward to read about such heinous crimes and never truly experiencing a full range of heightened emotions and tension. This is a thriller? Maybe a mystery? I am not sure at this point.

The ending was where it derailed for me. It angered me and left me frustrated and questioning the credibility of it all. It was liking watching everything unravel in a rushed and clunky manner that was demeaning and detrimental. I have tried to come to terms with the decision the author has made here and I simply cannot. For this reason I am cautious to recommend what was almost a brilliant read and will be knocking off a full star.


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53 thoughts on “The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

    1. I had a scan today. I am feeling more tired than anything of late. I am excited though because I am now going to do a heavy course of diuretics and discuss possible surgery 🙂 Not many details on that yet. How have you been? Hopefully not too many headaches of late ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I guess the feeling of desensitizing the story as it is told from Maya’s POV is certainly true to real life. But as a reader you want more of a rollercoaster of emotions which makes it hard to fully enjoy and shows that sometimes authors need to instill emotion in fiction even if it would be lacking in real life.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ive read so many times that the ending is awful that I almost want to read it only because of that. And at the same time I don’t want to read it because I know Im going to be disappointed 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Gosh, it sounds dark! Too dark for me, I think, though I must say the premise has intriguingly original points. I see what you mean about the story being told in retrospect taking away from the tension – sounds like a rather strange decision on the part of the author. And what a pity about the ending – I hate when an ending destroys what was otherwise a good read! Think I’ll skip this one… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The ending was most certainly the biggest flaw in my personal opinion. I am struggling to wrap my head around the choices the author made. Maybe others will appreciate it more.

      I found the narration to be different and refreshing, but the MC was so desensitized that there was almost no emotion at times. While it made some sense, it needed a bit more emotion at times.
      You are probably right for passing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review as ever, shame about the lack of urgency and panic, a story like this screams urgency and panic and I guess missing those things detracts from the story.

    Bad endings suck, no matter the genre, they are the last thing you are left with when finishing a book and as such, leave a bad impression no matter how great the story up until the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The ending felt hasting and completely out of place. It was an odd choice. I cannot find any appreciation in it at this point, but I know some readers do enjoy those “strange” endings.

      As far as the lack of emotion, I understood it on behalf of the MC but felt that she could have conveyed the emotion through her description of the other victims?
      Oh well. The author was definitely onto something. I hope she works it out in the next book 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, balls! I was so super intrigued but I can’t deal with endings that make take away from the credibility of the story… Otherwise, it sounds super interesting… and dark.. but… yeah… Love your review, nicely written and makes me reaaaallllyy want to give this a try… the bloody ending! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This does sound really intriguing. I loved your review (I especially love the quotes you included)! Just such a shame that the ending totally ruined the experience!!! Up until I read that I was definitely gonna read (I still might tbh 😉 )

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yikes. PASS. I’m glad you really enjoyed the narration, though! I love how Maya’s complete desensitivity to the situation comes out in the writing. Man. These things are so terrifying. How do people come up with these plots?!

    How did you end up finding this book? You always have the most interesting books!

    Liked by 2 people

          1. Oh yeah. Some of the books which have been recommended for me must come from books I buy for others using my Amazon account or something. Or maybe my little brother is using my Prime to read/watch weird stuff I never would have? I’m so confused by the algorithms sometimes.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree! That would have really upped the intrigue 😆 but it was very well done until the ending that didn’t sit with me. Maybe do not write it off. I am now looking through reviews and seeing that others loved the ending. So you never know!


  8. Looking at how you describe the ending in your review and in the comments makes me wonder, ‘what is the author thinking?’ Is he going for some shock value? The ultimate twist?

    I haven’t read the story but if you have readers that are not making the connection, that cannot wrap their heads around the ending and may need an explanation… then maybe the ending doesn’t work. I hate saying that because I am an advocate for people telling THEIR stories – but maybe it doesn’t work.

    “Took a full nose dive” was the phrase that did it for me. I’ll echo what’s already been said, ‘sounds intriguing but I think I’ll pass’. Excellent review Danielle, Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The story was great though! I am ready back through reviews and finding a ton of mixed thoughts on the ending. I guess it is working for some. I am unable to find any appreciation for it though.. I may actually follow the series still. I loved the perspective and writing 😊


  9. Damn, I found the title of the book so beautiful and poetic, and then I read the blurb and it killed the effect!!! Maya is such an intriguing character, the way you talk about her makes her feel like a total mystery.
    I’ve always been leery of gardeners, see, this proves I was right! But I love the question of how you survive such a traumatic experience, and it’s fantastic that the book delves deep into its subject, I hate when such books stay on the superficial side of things.
    I see your point, it makes you feel detached to read about such horrendous things in retrospective without really experiencing it with the characters. And about that letdown ending… I hate when it happens, we put so much of ourselves into the book and then, bam it derails.
    Fabulous review my Twin Pea.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you always ❤ I think this one is a series, so I may continue on to see if she pulls up something I can really enjoy next. It was so close for me aside from the ending and needing just a touch more emotion 😉

      And yes, those evil Gardeners.. be very cautious bahaha ❤


  10. Oh, no! Disappointed to hear about that ending. Glad it was good up ’til then, though. I’ve been wanting to read this for a while, so I think I’m still gonna give it a shot. Plus you have me super curious about the ending myself! 🙂 Thanks for the review, Danielle!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’m not sure how I missed this review but better late than never:) So I’m very much starting to think the topic of abducted children is just about done for…then the fact that you mentioned scenes of rape and I just wasn’t feeling this book. Your reaction to the ending really sealed the deal that this book isn’t for me. One thing I’ve noticed about my reaction to stories told by someone after the fact is that I tend to get bored with them and I think it’s because when I know the person obviously survived or whatever the situation was, it takes a lot of the tension and suspense out for me, kind of like you said about this not having a sense of urgency or panic. Excellent review!!

    I read some of you comments and saw you had a scan and possibly will be looking at meds and surgery? I hope that means some possible relief of the vertigo for you in the future? I’ll keep you in my thoughts:)


  12. I actually already have this in my TBR and have seen it getting a lot of positive review, but now, after this wonderful and honest review, I sort took a step back and am wondering if I’ll really.. ever reading it. 😛 Maybe if I find it for a dollar or even free I’ll pick it up, the whole garden idea sounds creepy fascinating.

    – Lashaan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am trying not to sway anyone one way or the other too much, because I have found a great divide with the ending. It seems it really worked for some readers and not others. I do not mind weird endings or twists at all, but admittedly it made no sense to end this way.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. The thriller/suspense genre has really ruined butterflies for me. Now everytime I see one on a cover I assume the book is going to be disturbing… and they have lost their appeal when I see them in real life too lol

    Anyways! This sounds like a book with a unique concept in the garden. Just reading this review made me feel unsettled… so I’m sure the book is a hundred times worse lol Too bad about the ending… Ugh!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! What is it with butterflies and thrillers of late? Now that you mention it, there seems to be a pattern. I keep telling everyone not to mark it off on account of my thoughts of the ending, as others approved, but not going to lie.. did not understand that decision!

      Liked by 1 person

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