Monday, January 14, 2013

The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

Penelope "Lo" Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things.
But in the year since her bother's death, Lo's hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous obsession. When she discovers a beautiful antique butterfly figurine and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as Sapphire, Lo becomes fixated.
As she attempts to piece together the mysterious "butterfly clues", with the unlikely help of a street artist named Flynt, Lo quickly finds herself caught up in a seedy, violent underworld -- a world much closer to home than she ever imagined.
Kate Ellison's debut novel is a tour de force thriller about a girl whose obsessive-compulsive collecting leads her down a dangerous path of secrets, mystery, and murder -- where every clue she uncovers could be her last.

~Print copy, 325 pages (from the library)
Published: 2012 by Egmont USA

This book is about a girl with OCD who accidently happens to be there when a girl is murdered.

She was not a witness, per se, but she was standing outside an apartment when a gun shot fires. She runs, making it home on the bus, but the next day, when she hears about the girl who was murdered in that part of town ("Neverland"), she looks it up. The house she had been next to when the gun fired was the home of a strip-club dancer, Sapphire, who was raped and murdered.

Lo visits a flea market the next day, where she finds a man who is selling a butterfly figurine and a horse pendant, both of which were missing from Sapphire's apartment when the police found her body. She confronts the seller about it, who swears he had nothing to do with it and gives her the butterfly figurine for free. Lo feels obligated to help figure out the killer, having been there and now owning the dead girl's figurine.

What did I think about this novel, really? I did enjoy reading it. A lot. It wasn't my favorite, but it was worth reading.

First off, there's Lo. She has an obsession with the numbers 3, 6, and especially 9. She compulsively steals things. But she wasn't represented as a freak, or someone who "has" to get better by the end of the book. She didn't need "help". She was represented as a real person, and her "urges" were real.

I'm not going into a rant about how people with mental disorders aren't "freaks" (because really, I don't think I need to). But I did enjoy that Lo was as real as any character I've read in my favorite books -- Artemis Fowl, Harry Potter, Emily Strange.

I felt Lo was kind of weak at times, truth admits, but I couldn't fault her for it. Not just because of her mental disorder, but because her brother died, and she was coping the best she could, and sometimes that slowed her down. Like how she had to tap her thighs nine times and say "banana" before she could enter a place: not really useful when running from a killer. But she had to, it made her feel safe. And really, that's what makes this book not-hateful: you can connect with Lo because her habits make her feel safe. And who doesn't have something they do, some small tic, to make themselves feel better?

Secondly, I love the ending. Everything ties together, like it should. The author really did a good job with that: everything was cleared up, everything made sense. It was lovely, a real nice ending.

Which leads me to a point I semi-hated: the romance. There was nothing wrong with this romance; actually, it was an element of the plot that tied into the ending pretty well, too. But I just dislike romance in general. There was a part that got semi-sexual, but they didn't do anything besides make out (which was described in detail).

Also, the setting was a strip club in Neverland for a good portion of the book. She applies for a job there, so she can talk to the other girls about Sapphire. This was not a smart idea, in my opinion -- how do you turn that sort of job down without raising suspicion? It's kind of assumed in this poor neighborhood that you needed the money, or you wouldn't have applied. But I can agree to let a character have at least one bad decision. The setting descriptions, I couldn't picture exactly, just in jagged points -- a tree here, a birdbath there, how many of this or that -- but I got enough of a picture to imagine it.

The writing itself was beautiful, though. It was sort of Laurie Halse Anderson meets Eoin Colfer (the author of Speak meets the author of Artemis Fowl). Laurie Halse Anderson because of how Ellison points out just the right details and in just the right way to make it seem like actual thought. And Eoin Colfer because of the ending, how you can almost see everything tying itself together, but you don't guess the ending. I mean, you can't guess the ending, but you can see how everything led up to it. It was really unique, really. Managing to be compared to two of my favorite authors, but still sounding like a unique voice, is pretty spiffy. I'm vaguely impressed.

Overall, there wasn't much I hated. It didn't quite catch my spark (though it came awful close) but it was well worth a read. 4.25 stars (which we all should remember means we round down).

1 comment:

  1. Definitely will be checking out this one. I've been looking for a good mystery/thriller lately. And I love Hoarders whenever it's on and this book sort of reminds me of it from what you've said. As usual your review was ridiculously insightful. Thanks for sharing.
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