A thriller, a mystery, a romance, a study of OCD, The Butterfly Clues also has something of the air of a fairytale to it.
Hero Penelope (Lo), as steadfast and brave as her namesake, is an innocent in a dark and dangerous world. Wandering through unfamiliar streets near her home she is a bystander at a shooting. Lo, who suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder, her life constrained by an overwhelming desire for neatness and pattern that causes her to constantly tap patterns on her body, is driven to find out the truth behind the murder. This takes her into a seedy underworld, an area of the city called Neverland. She finds her prince there, though he has his own set of problems, and there are trials and tests for both of them before their happy ending.
We learn that Lo has always had OCD, but that the condition has been exacerbated by the disappearance of her brother, Oren. As the story unfolds, narrated in present tense by Lo herself, we gradually discover what happened to him. It turns out that his story too is linked to that of the murdered girl.
Lo’s is an entirely convincing voice, and Kate Ellison’s novel has a distinct and original feel to it. She successfully combines the realism of the crime thriller, with a fantastical sense of other, hidden worlds. Lo’s condition is skilfully described too so that we experience it as prop and curse. This is an intriguing and compelling read, and a very impressive debut.