“Tristan Griffin is a household name and the author of a universally popular detective series. For the past few years he has lived in self-exile in a remote jungle lodge nestled in the Mayan hills of Southern Belize, with his partner Hedda. Butterfly Ranch begins as he attempts suicide and Hedda disappears. Altamont Stanbury, an old Kriol police constable posted to the local backwater of San Antonio, rushes to the scene with his daughter Philomena, the village nurse.
Philomena saves Tristan but he remains unconscious. Altamont, a bumbler and long-time reader of crime novels, launches a half-hearted search for Hedda by radio but decides to remain at the lodge. In truth his reverence for Tristan the writer consumes all else, and he becomes obsessed with the Griffin books he finds at the lodge.
When Tristan comes to, he is distraught and at times delirious, haunted by flashbacks of his uncompromising, cursed love for Hedda and the dark secret behind her disappearance. His anger and increasingly erratic behaviour only find respite in the presence of Altamont s innocent daughter. But he feels nothing but spite for Altamont himself, and the relationship between the two threatens to have fatal consequences for one or both.”
Today on the blog I am reviewing the debut novel by R K Sakters, Butterfly Ranch. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Matador and the author for my copy of the book.
From the blurb of this book, you might be forgiven for thinking it is a straight-forward thriller, albeit it set in an exotic part of the world not much used for that type of novel, but you would be wrong. Although with a dramatic mystery at its heart, Butterfly Ranch is so much more and I was astonished to discover that this is a debut by the author.
For me, reading this book is a little like walking through someone else’s dream. A jumble of current events interwoven with flashbacks which tell the story of the mystery happening in the present with regard to the missing Hedda, whilst simultaneously slowly unveiling the history of Hedda and Tristan’s turbulent relationship. The melange unfolds in a disconnected way which added to the air of unreality which permeated the book and I truly was taken out of myself and the every day world which I inhabit whilst I was reading it, not just to another country but also to a slightly altered mental state. (I’m not sure if I have explained that very well. I was reading it late at night!)
The setting of the isolated, decrepit ranch in the dense, stifling jungle of Belize, combined with the repressive atmosphere preceding the imminent hurricane gave the novel a tense, oppressive, almost dangerous mood which enhanced the tension of the thriller aspect of the book and kept me feeling on edge throughout, which I find a positive trait in a thriller novel (although not in life!). The author does a wonderful job of bringing the book’s setting to life, his descriptions are evocative and richly drawn, the world is really vivid and immersive.
There is a small cast of characters, which allows us to get to know them intimately over the course of the book. The bored and bumbling PC who is obsessed with crime novels and is more concerned with discussing Tristan’s work than solving the mystery of the missing Hedda. His daughter, Philomena, only semi-trained but already more dynamic and assured that her father will ever be, seeing him through new eyes as the situation unfolds and she has to take charge. Hedda’s sister and her complicated feelings about her relationship with her missing twin. All are explored in depth, along with the central relationship between Tristan and the missing Hedda; they all really jump off the page as real, flawed, interesting, but not necessarily likeable, characters. This book focuses a lot on family dynamics and how complicated and shifting these can be. The book also deals with complex issues of mental illness, self harm and destructive relationships.
The pace of the book is leisurely and languorous, unveiling the mystery slowly and with consideration – it is definitely not fast paced and action-packed – but this perfectly mirrors the sultry, tropical setting and the inch by inch exploration and revelation of the background emotions and events. This is not a book of quick, cheap thrills, but rewards a more cerebral and considered examination. It is not at all what I was expecting, but it was extremely rewarding to read and it is a novel that will linger in my mind and which I will mull over for some time to come.
Butterfly Ranch is out now and you can buy a copy here.
The author is hosting a giveaway of five signed copies of the book over on Twitter so, to be in with a chance, please follow this link and leave your smilie on the pinned tweet!
To catch up with the rest of the blog tour, visit the fabulous blogs below and see what they thought of the book:
About the Author
RK Salters grew up in Paris in the 1970s to an Irish émigré father and French mother. He is himself an exile of sorts, having left the roost to study abroad and subsequently lived in a number of countries. His approach to writing is eclectic, drawing influences from classic and contemporary, genre and literary fiction alike, across both sides of the Atlantic.
He is now settled in Lithuania (Baltics), where he earlier met his future wife while exploring the collapsing Soviet Union. He is a passionate traveller and an expedition in Belizean jungles provided the setting for Butterfly Ranch, his first novel.
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