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 it 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, as she'll ultimately discover, that could hold the key to her brother's tragic death.
©2012 Kate Ellis (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
"A debut worth picking up. Stark and realistic." (RTBook Reviews)
"An engaging mystery starring a teen girl with obsessive-compulsive disorder.... A pleasing mix of realism, tension, intrigue and romance." (Kirkus Reviews)
"In a strong, twisty thriller of a debut, Ellison builds tension effectively, creating credible portraits of both the decaying, violent streets of Neverland and the compulsions that make Lo such a complex and memorable heroine." (Publishers Weekly)
"Review: "The Butterfly Clues" by Kate Ellison"
I've never been one for murder mysteries and whodunnits. Well, except for Midsommer Murders, and I think my enjoyment of that is more associative as it reminds me of pleasant Sunday evenings with my parents. So it's fairly surprising that I should enjoy a book which is basically a light murder mystery for a YA audience.
Lo, the first person protagonist of The Butterfly Clues, really appealed to me. If you look at some of the reviews of this book around the internet, it seems like she's a character you either like or loathe. This is mostly because of her OCD. Lo has an obsession with the number 3 and its multiples. They are her "safe" numbers. Her illness has also resulted in her becoming a hoarder and a bit of a klepto to boot. Her illness also means she can never pass through any doorway without tapping three times and then saying "banana". She... has problems.
It seems like a lot of readers found her annoying because of her constant counting and her repetitive, obsessive-compulsive nature. A lot of readers seemed to miss the point that Lo felt the same way! It was meant to be irksome, almost an inconvenience to the reader, because that allows us to empathise with her. Imagine not being able to run from a killer until you've touched your toes three times! Scary. I suppose I might be over-estimating authorial intention, but I hope not!
The Butterfly Clues was predictable, at least as far as I was concerned, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment at all. At the end of the day, knowing who the murderer was all along, or finding out more about Lo's brother, even knowing how her relationship with the quirky street artist, Flynt, was all secondary to the more intriguing development of Lo's obsessive nature.
This is a great example of a book which has a fairly obvious destination, but also a well-crafted journey! And that's what matters, right?
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