Ellison, Kate. The Butterfly Clues. 978-1606842638.
This book’s summary intrigued me: a 17-year-old with OCD and a dead brother gets wrapped up in the murder of a young stripper in a bad part of town. Fast-paced mysteries featuring high-school protagonists are pretty thin on the ground, so I thought I’d take a look. (I also thought it’d be important to preview, given the stripper content. The school where I work has a pretty conservative clientele.) Well.
Kate Ellison brings the reader right into (Pene)Lo(pe) Marin’s experience; I was drawn into the tics and compulsive behaviors right away, and it’s clear that Lo’s home life is not helping her address her mental health issues. While the story is a touch implausible (near-miss murder; incredibly dangerous stalker type and misinterpreted clues all along the way; on-again, off-again, sweet/weird romance; perfectly neat and orderly ending), I do think that mysteries ask us to suspend disbelief more than some other genres do. With that in mind, I’d recommend this book to readers who like mysteries and thrillers. It isn’t typical shoot-em-up stuff, but it moves fast and slows down regularly to allow the reader (and Lo) to take a breath.
What I think The Butterfly Clues does really well is open a window into the world of a person with OCD. Some of Lo’s behaviors (arranging and rearranging her collections, for example, and a fixation with multiples of three) seem harmless; others (like a particular sequence that Lo needs to complete before entering a room) are obviously in her way. Other reviewers have said that the continuous repetition of that sequence and others was bothersome and interrupted the flow of their reading. I thought that including them continuously, repetitiously, annoyingly throughout the book played up the fact that they interrupt the flow of Lo’s entire life. While it may be unrealistic to think that a 17-year-old girl (other than Nancy Drew) would pursue a murder investigation, this girl has to follow through to the end, by any means possible. We wouldn’t get there if Lo didn’t have OCD.
Overall, The Butterfly Clues was a decent read. Not perfect, and not earth-shattering literature, but definitely the kind of first novel that will make me look for more from Kate Ellison.