Saturday, February 18, 2012

Review: The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

Penelope (Lo) Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things. Her dad's consulting job means she's grown up moving from one rundown city to the next, and she's learned to cope by collecting (sometimes even stealing) quirky trinkets and souvenirs in each new place--possessions that allow her to feel at least some semblance of home.

But in the year since her brother Oren's death, Lo's hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous obsession. She discovers a beautiful, antique butterfly pendant during a routine scour at a weekend flea market, and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as "Sapphire"--a girl just a few years older than Lo. As usual when Lo begins to obsess over something, she can't get the murder out of her mind.

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 much closer to home than she ever imagined--a world, she'll ultimately discover, that could hold the key to her brother's tragic death. (summary from Goodreads)

Ellison’s The Butterfly Clues is a thoroughly compulsive read that you will not be able to put down!

Penelope Marin lives her life by certain rituals. Her room must be exactly so, her food portioned just right, and she’s only safe when she counts out certain numbers. She also steals whenever the ‘urge’ overcomes her…an urge she’s felt ever since the death of her brother, Oren, a year earlier. One night while wondering the streets of Neverland, a shadier part of her city, in search of her next theft, Lo is almost killed by a stray bullet shot from inside the house she’s hiding behind. She doesn’t stick around to discover what happened. When
Lo later learns that a young dancer named Sapphire was killed within the house by that shot however, Lo is taken over by the urge to discover the identity of the murderer. Finding Sapphire’s jewelry for sale at a flea market, Lo becomes even more compelled to learn the truth. Together with Flynt, a boy she meets on the streets of Neverland, Lo begins to piece together the clues of Sapphire’s life. But is Flynt who is says he is? Can he be trusted? With every step closer to the murderer, Lo finds herself in more danger. The killer knows who she is and what she’s doing…and if she’s not careful, she’ll be the next victim. But the urge to find out the truth drives Lo…as does the grief over her brother’s death, an overdose right there within the streets of Neverland. Will Lo survive to learn the truth?

I don’t use the word ‘compulsive’ to describe The Butterfly Clues lightly. With an MC that suffers from an almost debilitating obsessive compulsive di
sorder, such a description could never be light, but it is without doubt the best word I can think of to truly highlight how gripping this book is. Ellison’s writing is phenomenal. Every single word is a hook that will sink under your skin and keep a hold of you, right to the very last page. There is no turning your back on Penelope Marin once you begin reading her story and I guarantee she will remain with you forever. Every moment of this book, it’s mystery, it’s romance, it’s characters, builds in intensity to a heart-pounding climax that will knock the breath right out of you.

I cannot get over how well Ellison has portrayed Lo and her ‘urges’. I’ve never read a book with an OCD character before, but I could never have imagined that it was possible to bring the nature of such a disorder to the forefront of a story in a way that allowed readers to truly experience the actual compulsiveness of it. Yet that is what has Ellison has succeeded in doing. The descriptions of Lo’s rituals throughout the entirety of the novel, from her need to steal, to her tap, tap, tap, banana as she crosses thresholds, to her
counting and her need to have things in threes, are nerve-racking and compelling. They resonate in such a way that you can’t help but connect with Lo and her plight. I truly feel for Lo, who is such a great and real character. Every one of her emotions hits you. As the need to solve Sapphire’s murder becomes stronger, the situation more dangerous, and Lo’s urges much more intense and prominent, the narrative becomes overwhelming, in the best possible way. You are no innocent bystander but an active participant in this story, that’s how well Ellison grabs and keeps your attention.

Lo’s OCD, while a major part of her and the story, is definitely not all there is to The Butterfly Clues. Another is that of Flynt and his developing romance with Lo…or as he calls her, Queen P. I got caught up in so much of the novel, the romance aspect included. Flynt, in his ever present bear ears hat, will win readers over immediately – he certainly did me! I adored his spirit and how he honestly understood Lo and accepted her rituals as simply
a part of her. When she was pat on the shoulder just once by another but needed it to be three times and without thought he reached up and did so twice more? I melted, people. Right there into a puddle of goo. The thing is though; Flynt is as much a mystery as Sapphire and her murder, another Lo wishes to solve, and as the book progresses I found myself torn between adoring him and wanting the romance to develop, and fearing that he’d turn out to be the killer. I about screamed wanting to know if I could trust him or not…and Ellison makes sure readers don’t get comfortable, let me tell you.

It’s much the same with the mystery and intrigue of The Butterfly Clues. The danger Lo finds herself in as she searches for Sapphire’s killer and the threats she receives made my skin crawl. It’s a fast-paced story, but Ellison keeps you guessing until the end. The way everything came together had my jaw dropping, with so many twists and turns that in actuality interconnect. I only just pieced together the mystery before Lo herself discovers the truth, and rather than it being predictable, doing so allowed me to realise and thus panic as Lo blindly barrels head first into danger. The tension Ellison creates as she weaves her story is mind blowing. This is one book I’ll never forget, it is just that good.

There are no punches pulled throughout The Butterfly Clues. Ellison’s debut is phenomenal, a novel fraught with mystery, danger, tension and emotion, and one not to be missed.


Publisher: EgmontUSA
Published date: 14 February 2012
Pages: 336
Format: eGalley from NetGalley

Many thanks to EgmontUSA and NetGalley!

Challenges: 2012 Debut Author Challenge;


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