What are you passionate about and what would you do to express that passion? In the Butterfly House, one wo/man is willing to kill to show others what s/he believes in. The question: who is it?
I wouldn’t say that mystery is my favorite genre. Though my mother loves a good mystery, action, or adventure, I tend to lean towards genres like historical fiction, fantasy, and romance. Nevertheless, I enjoy reading across all the genres and decided to give this book a try particularly as I felt I had seen it everywhere prior to finding it on the shelves of my local library.
The Butterfly House tells the story of an old psychiatric home for youth (The Butterfly House) which was shut down a long time ago after a patient killed herself in the home. In the story, the workers of the home begin to drop dead, found drained of the blood, and placed in bodies of water, not unlike the suicide victim who slit her wrists in the bathtub.
A detective must solve this case and fast before all of the prior workers of the Butterfly House end up dead. Meanwhile, his partner who’s on maternity leave can’t sit still and feels the need to join in on the case from behind the scenes. Other storylines are also pictured including that of a nurse from the butterfly house, a couple of the psychiatric patients (one of whom seems to have cured herself for the most part), and a largely unrelated storyline.
The Butterfly House was not a horrible novel but neither did I find it particularly compelling or exciting. I wanted to know “whodunnit” and was kept from the knowledge of the true killer for the majority of the novel but felt like this wasn’t done in the correct way.
Part of the reason I didn’t know “whodunnit” was because of the extreme amount of points of view included in the novel. The Butterfly House has a cast of characters that is much larger than anything I have ever seen before and which includes much too many characters that are unnecessary. In particular, it includes too many characters that have a point of view.
If the point of view is not crucial to telling the story and/or will not reveal something which turns out to be highly important later, it shouldn’t be there. Otherwise, it only interrupts the novel so that readers are going back and forth between the important storylines and those that tell a different story altogether. It confuses the reader as they start looking for clues where there aren’t any and it adds more characters and stories token track of when the reader is already trying to keep track of the rest.
For about half of the book, I was really struggling to remember which character was which. In fact, for the first quarter of the book, it felt like 5-10 new characters were introduced every few pages and when a character was repeated, you couldn’t tell.
For example, the author might identify “John” as a policeman in one scene and then five pages later refer to him as a “lover of dogs.” It would take you five sentences to realize that the “lover of dogs” was actually “John the policeman.”
To make matters worse, you had characters from plots like I described (that didn’t relate to the story as a whole) who would interact with the important characters.
So now you have “John the policeman” trying to solve the murder of “dead guy one” and there’s a separate (unrelated) storyline where “Donna the old lady” is going about her day and happens to call “John the policeman” about something unrelated. Now everything is twisted up in knots and you are asking:
“what do I actually need to know to understand the story??”
That's not to say that I didn’t like the plot overall. I did enjoy the murder mystery that was at the bottom of the book. I didn’t see the ending coming and felt that the author did do a good job of planting clues along the way that you only saw once it all came together at the end. I suspected many others besides the true killer but never got around to questioning whether the person who was the murderer did the murdering. I only wish that all the fluff had been erased from the novel so that I could have enjoyed the mystery on its own without random plots stuck in there or an excess of confusing characters. It could honestly be an excellent novel to read as a lesson for writers. It is n example of how to best do plot twists as well as a manual on what to avoid when it comes to multiple POVs and the number of characters.
Would I ultimately suggest the novel to others? It depends. Do you enjoy mysteries? Would you be triggered by any talk of suicide or psychiatric disorders? Would multiple POVs bother you or could you enjoy the mystery at the center of the novel? Could the novel be a learning experience for you?
I think The Butterfly House has its ups and downs. I wouldn’t recommend it for everybody but for fans of a well-traced mystery, excellent plot twists, or writing lessons, it would be a good book to pick up.