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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

The Butterfly House, Katrine Engberg

Oh, I love Nordic crime thrillers. Ever since I read my first Harry Hole novel, I've read pretty much everything in the genre I can get my hands on. I was so excited to dive into The Butterfly House.

When a body is dumped in a fountain in the old market, Jeppe Korner investigates the homicide. There are strange markings, indicative of a painful death, and before he's had a chance to make headway, a second victim turns up dead with the same MO. Both bodies have a connection to an old treatment center, The Butterfly House, known for its treatment of juveniles with particular psychiatric disorders. With his partner Annette on maternity leave (and starved for a bit of normalcy as she adjusts to life as a new mom) Korner pairs up with Falke to find the killer before anyone else turns up dead. Oh, I loved this book. To start, the criminal element is well-executed and interesting. Give me a strange medieval weapon with a grim purpose and I'm hooked. I actually took the time to research it on my own, and let me tell you, the details are fascinating. Engberg doesn't shy away from details, either, so instead of a glossed-over version of the crime, we get gore and a stark account of what death was probably like for the victims. This makes the act all the more brutal, especially when its juxtaposed with quieter moments, like Annette feeding her baby in the car while juggling her conflicting emotions about her new identity. It takes an already intimate moment and highlights the vulnerability of life and mental health. Because much of this book is an exploration and frank discussion about mental health, mental health care, and the privatization of health care. I found this to be informative, important, and relevant and far from preachy, which can often be the case when authors tackle this subject matter. Instead, we get glimpses into various mental disorders--the approaches, the treatments, the fallout, and the recovery. Both inside and outside the hospitals, the discussion wasn't limited to the patients but extended into every character arc. The parallel stories had solid voices and created avenues for suspense and suspicion, and Engberg wove them together beautifully. Overall, The Butterfly House is a thrilling, fast-paced adventure with blood, guts, and a whole lot of heart. For fans of Nordic crime in the vein of Jo Nesbo, medical thrillers, procedurals, or anyone looking for a creepy serial killer narrative. Big thanks to Gallery/Scout and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.


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