I was excited to find out that last year's The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison had a sequel, The Roses of May. While The Butterfly Garden had a definite ending, it does make sense to continue the story, even if it is in a different way with new lead characters, while the reader is able to learn about what is going on with the other ones. Either way, I knew I would be treated to a suspenseful story and some decent follow-up for the previous one.
The Situation: Priya Sravasti is a fairly ordinary high school student currently living in Huntington, Colorado, though she is taking her classes online, mostly in preparation for her eventual move to Paris. She is used to moving every couple of months due to the nature of her mother's job, so not being able to establish roots or make lasting friendships is nothing new to her. Also, since her sister's gruesome murder nearly five years ago, Priya has not felt much need to reach out to people. Her small circle contains her mother, the small group of military veterans who play chess in the park, and the three FBI agents that worked her sister's case, along with the cases of the other women that were killed by the same guy. The three FBI agents happen to be Victor Hanoverian, Brandon Eddison, and Mercedes Ramirez, the same three that are still working on the Butterfly Garden case that came to light four months before.
The Problem: Priya's sister's murder was never solved, and the killer is still loose, managing to give the FBI another victim every May for the last 16 years. Agent Eddison has stayed close to both Priya and her mother after being assigned to their case five years ago. So while he has the still very much active case of the Butterfly Garden, he also stays worried about Priya and how she is doing. Now it seems her sister's killer has followed Priya and her mother to Colorado, and intends to continue his streak. With the FBI agents stationed on the east coast, it is difficult for them to guarantee Priya's safety, even while coordinating with authorities in Colorado. They would love nothing more than to arrest this guy and put him away forever. But after watching the aftermath from the Butterfly Garden, Priya is not sure if that is the kind of justice she can be satisfied with.
Genre, Themes, History: This is a fiction novel that most would categorize as a thriller, and it certainly is, but I like it under the horror subheading, because it is indeed horrifying. While the Gardener liked to collect girls, mark them as his own, and then rape them until they reached adulthood, when he decided to kill them and preserve them, the man who killed Priya's sister stalks his victims, and decides that they are either too pure to continue living and risk corruption, or they are corrupted already and deserve to die. Either way, whoever he locks onto is almost guaranteed to be dead before summer. The narrative switches between a third-person account of Eddison's life, and a first-person account of Priya's. Eddison is still his anxious and somewhat emotionally closed off self from The Butterfly Garden, but now the reader gets to see what he is like around people he genuinely cares about, and not just his colleagues or the suspects they haul in. As hurt and crushed as Priya was after her sister's death, she has managed to grow up to be almost as fierce and terrifying as her mother. She is certainly not interested in being a victim, whether that means ending up dead like her sister, or having to look over her shoulder for the rest of her life. While the novel is certainly tense and suspenseful, it is also a good look at how the hurt and pain of a tragic event can continue long after the actual event is over. It also looks at just how much girls and women have to put up with from creepy men from a young age.
My Verdict: This is a story. I may have said the same thing about The Butterfly Garden, but whatever, it is true. The nice thing about The Roses of May is that it was not as hard to read as its predecessor, but was still just as powerful, if not more so. Priya is a fantastic protagonist, and getting to follow her around was a pure delight, even with the danger coming closer and closer, making the book all the more tense right up until the end. Also, it was nice to be allowed a view into Eddison's world, even though the seemingly obvious choice for that space would have been Hanoverian. In many ways, Eddison is the smarter choice, as he was almost an antagonist in the first book, but now we get to see why he is the way he is, and that ultimately, he is one of the good guys. Thriller and suspense lovers would enjoy this series and the direction it is going in. I also loved hearing from Bliss and Inara and getting even more closure from the events in the first book.
Favorite Moment: It comes from one of the updates regarding a villain from the previous book. I will not say more in a restrained effort to not let out any spoilers.
Favorite Character: Priya's mother reminds me a little of my own, perhaps without the disarming smile and grace. Everyone seems to know to stay out of Ms. Sravasti's way as soon as she enters a room.
Recommended Reading: Obviously, it would help greatly to read The Butterfly Garden before picking up this one. But also, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton would be a strangely appropriate choice.