5 stars out of 5
Right up front, I will say this: Before you read this book - the second in the author's Collector Trilogy - read the first (The Butterfly Garden). It's probably possible to read this one as a standalone, but I'm quite sure I would not have enjoyed it half as much without being privy to the background and characters from its predecessor.
And boy, did I ever enjoy it! While it's not quite as dark and grisly as the first, perhaps, it's not all that far off; the prologue, written years ago, hints that a serial killer has been born. Fast forward to about four months after an explosion that destroyed the above-mentioned Butterfly Garden, where many beautiful young women were held captive (in more ways than one). A few survived, but all are struggling to readjust to a normal life - if that's even possible given the horrors they experienced. Now, some of the FBI agents from Book I - Victor Hanoverian, Brandon Eddison and Mercedes Ramirez, to be specific - are tackling paperwork. Enter Priya Sravasti, whose sister was murdered several years ago. Someone, it seems, is tracking them wherever they go, leaving flowers at their doorstep. As a result, she and her uber-professional mother move frequently, each time hoping they won't be found. Problem is, the flowers appear to represent the flowers left on the young female victims of an apparent serial killer - a person presumed to have killed 16 girls including Priya's sister.
Now they've been found again; and as all this is happening, Priya gets a letter from Inara, one of the surviving Butterfly girls from the garden (the one who seems to have been the "leader" of the others). The two girls correspond and eventually meet, thus connecting the cases from the two books. They also connect with Eddison, whose sister Faith was kidnapped at age 8 about 20 years easier. She's never been found, a fact that continues to haunt him - and both he and Hanovarian feel a special, though somewhat strange, affinity with both girls. As the FBI team investigates with the hope of nailing the serial killer, they get with help from Priya, who just may be one of the killer's targets - perhaps even the most important one.
As with the first book, there's plenty of tension, even though I correctly guessed who the serial killer was fairly early on. Sections shift perspectives from characters - most notably the killer and Priya - but it's very easy to follow who's who. Especially noteworthy to me is the in-depth development of the main characters; although I'm not sure we'd ever be friends, I really felt I "knew" each of them quite well by the end. I suppose my favorite is Hanovarian, although I also enjoyed the heck out of Eddison (at one point, he's described as being "twitchier than a long-tailed cat on the front porch of a Cracker Barrel.")
How great is that?
The Roses of May by Dot Hutchison (Thomas & Mercer, May 2017); 302 pp.