Book: The Butterfly Clues
Author: Kate Ellison
Source: Review Copy provided by publisher via NetGalley
Lo Marin has always had little routines, an obsession with numbers (nine, good; eight, bad) and other quirks that help her get through her day. But ever since her brother's overdose, these quirks have blossomed into a full-blown disorder that she hides as best she can.
When a girl her own age is killed almost in front of her, she becomes fixated on the victim. She keeps running across random items that all seem to lead back to Sapphire. As more and more clues come to light, she becomes convinced that it was no random tragedy, but a premeditated murder. With the help of Flynt, a charismatic and secretive homeless boy her own age, Lo plunges into the seamy underbelly of Cleveland, searching for Sapphire's killer.
But is there really a dark and convoluted plot afoot? Or is she just seeing patterns where none exist?
One of my favorite tropes is an unreliable narrator. This one is particularly unreliable because of her mental illness. Not that you start to think that she's imagining any of the actual people or events that she encounters, but you do wonder if she's imagining the connections. After all, this is a girl who is physically unable to pass through a doorway without tapping the frame three times and whispering the word "bananas." Because of the tenuous and coincidental nature of some of the clues, you really do wonder whether the patterns she sees are real until about midway through the novel, when it becomes clear that something is really going on. The mystery itself wasn't particularly tricksy--I knew who the bad guy was the moment I met him. I was surprised by how Lo's dead brother tied in, though.
I also like the treatment of OCD. Ellison shows how deeply entrenched the patterns become, and also how they worsen with anxiety. Sometimes her disorder helps, sometimes it hinders, and at all times, Lo has to live with it. Hunting for Sapphire's killer gives her a focus, something she can control as she works through the delayed trauma of her brother's death. I also liked how the end showed that there is no miracle cure, only a measure of control over it.
If you're looking for a mystery with a seamy edge and a unique main character, The Butterfly Clues may fit the bill.