book review: Roses of May by Dot Hutchinson

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Roses of May by Dot Hutchinson

US pub date: May 23, 2017

★★★

Roses of May is more of a companion novel, rather than a sequel, to Hutchinson’s The Butterfly Garden. We sort of pick up where we left off, chronologically, but then we follow a different thread. FBI Agent Brandon Eddison features more heavily in this novel, and we see a fair bit of Inara and Bliss, but the meat of the story is about a new character altogether. Priya Svrasti’s sister Chavi was murdered by a serial killer five years ago; every May he seeks out a new victim, always a young girl, and murders her in a church and covers her with flowers. As springtime approaches, the FBI agents involved in the case – and Priya – want to make sure this man is found before he kills again.

What I found interesting about this novel is that Hutchinson didn’t play to what everyone agrees are the strengths that she exhibited in The Butterfly Garden. The power of that book was all in the atmosphere. The contrast between the stunning setting and the horrors that occurred in those pages made it both terrifying and unforgettable… but there’s none of that here. This is a rather run of the mill thriller that has none of The Butterfly Garden‘s magic.

That’s not to say that it’s boring. It isn’t. It’s a quick and engaging read. I wanted to know what happened, and I was immediately invested in Priya, who’s both strong and vulnerable, in a way that’s reminiscent of Inara (whom I loved), but not so similar that it feels like Hutchinson is rehashing the same character again.

However, there’s a lot that I was frustrated with. (1) To me, Priya’s relationship with her mother was completely unbelievable, and the extent of what her mother allowed was absolutely ridiculous (you’ll know what I’m talking about by the end). (2) I thought the FBI agents facilitating the connection between Priya and Inara was beyond unprofessional, and the interest they took in Priya fell somewhere in the realm of unprofessional and unbelievable – maybe both, I’m not entirely sure. (3) I was able to guess the killer the second he was introduced to the story, and anyone else who’s ever read a thriller will be able to do the same.

And finally, it’s up to you to decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing (I think it’s clear where I stand on the matter), but just a general observation: this novel read a lot more like YA than The Butterfly Garden did. Priya is younger than Inara was, so that may have something to do with it, but honestly, there was just a general preachiness to it that I hadn’t really been expecting from an adult thriller. Two recurring themes in Roses of May are ‘it’s okay to not be okay,’ and ‘you choose your family,’ both of which Hutchinson bashes us over the head with, over. and over. and over. and over. I’m not kidding – toward the end, we literally have someone ask Priya if she’s okay, and she says something like “Aren’t I always?” and he replies “No. And that’s okay.” I lost track of the amount of times I rolled my eyes reading this book. Characters are also constantly making comments about how badass Priya and her mom are, which started to feel rather self-congratulatory by the end. There’s also a majorly corny excess of ‘this character knows EXACTLY what this other character needs, EXACTLY when they need it’… for such a dark subject matter, this book shows a rather idealized picture of humanity.

I mean, Hutchinson is a good writer. She knows how to craft a compelling story. She kept me flipping pages, both here and in The Butterfly Garden. But Roses of May just… wasn’t entirely what I wanted. It may have been stronger on its own than as a follow up to The Butterfly Garden, but Hutchinson set the bar high for herself with that one, and I can’t help but to feel like Roses of May suffered for it.

Trigger warnings for rape (nothing graphic, but it’s mentioned fairly frequently), suicide, eating disorders, and emetophobia.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Netgalley & Dot Hutchinson.

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8 thoughts on “book review: Roses of May by Dot Hutchinson

  1. I really enjoyed it, but I can see your reasoning for why you didn’t like it as much! I think I was just so invested in the characters that the plot’s weaknesses didn’t stand out to me as much. The only thing I disagree with is Priya’s relationship with her mother–but I have a friend who has a very similar relationship with her mother (besides, well, you know, that thing at the end), so it seemed realistic to me just because I’ve seen something like it before,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Likewise I do definitely understand why people are enjoying it! I’m usually more interested in character-driven novels anyway, so in theory this should have been right up my alley (especially because Priya was so great!) but like I said, I think there was too great a contrast between the way Hutchinson approached this story and The Butterfly Garden, and this just didn’t have that ‘wow’ factor for me.

      As for Priya and her mother, I would have definitely been more willing to accept their dynamic if it hadn’t been for The Thing at the end. That just pushed it into the realm of totally unbelievable for me. It’s fair that you’re probably more receptive to it as someone who knows a relationship like that in person though. I do have a great relationship with my mother, but she’s 40 years older than me so I’ve never really had that ‘friend-mom’ thing and I usually find it sort of unrealistic in fiction unless it’s written in a particularly convincing way. And here, I really didn’t have a huge problem with it until The Thing!

      Liked by 1 person

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