Book one in The Heartland Trilogy, Butterfly on the Storm, is a best-selling Dutch thriller.
A young boy is found in woods outside Amsterdam. Broken and bloody, he appears to be the victim of a brutal hit-and-run. When the police at the hospital ask what happened, the one word the boy repeats they don’t understand.
But journalist Farah Hafez does. She left Afghanistan as a child and she recognizes her native tongue. As the boy is taken into surgery she finds herself visiting the scene of the crime, seeking to discover how a little Afghan boy came to be so far from home.
Instead, she comes across a burnt-out car with two bodies inside – a sinister clue to something far darker than a simple road accident.
It is just the start of a journey that will lead her from one twisted strand to another in an intricate web of crime and corruption that stretches across Europe and deep into a past that Farah had sought to escape – a past that nearly killed her.
I think this may be my first thriller set in the Netherlands, I enjoy reading books set in different locations as it provides a pleasant change of scenery and through books, I get to travel the globe.
Butterfly on the Storm is a complex and layered story that follows investigative journalist, Farah Hafez, as she investigates the events that led to the hit-and-run of a little boy. The first medic on the scene, Danielle, works to save the little boy, but in a misguided effort to use this boy’s story to raise awareness of children’s suffering everywhere, she places the boy in further danger. Police officers, Calvino and Diba, are assigned to the case. Everyone involved soon realises this case is bigger than any of them ever thought – this is crime on an international level, Netherlands, South Africa, Russia and Afghanistan, this crime spans continents. Is Farah up to the task of cracking this case? She’s up against some extremely powerful and dangerous people who will do anything to keep their keep their secrets safe.
“Some people carry death in their eyes. Establish contact with them and you run the risk of contamination.”
The plot is extremely well detailed, the characters are plenty but the story is so well told, in the sense that you are able to follow it without becoming confused. Surprisingly, I didn’t really feel drawn to any of the characters, despite the backstory of the main characters being shared with us, and I think, at times, my lack of connection to any particular character made this story lose its momentum in places. It’s really hard when in a book of this length you don’t have a character to root for, something to push you on with the read.
Fear not the big book, they say, at 528 pages, I feel like I read the entire trilogy in one book! That was especially true in the last 10% of the story, where it really seemed to drag, which unfortunately leaves me little incentive to pick up book two, however, I can be persuaded if it’s not so long in length! If you struggle with books of a longer length, it may be wise to steer clear of this one but it you enjoy getting stuck in a complex case that spans continents with strong themes of corruption and bribery, give this book a read.
Overall, this book wasn’t as fast-paced and thrilling as I’d hoped; here I can’t help but wonder if anything was lost in translation, creating the thrill is all about how you use words and a particular phrase may read as extremely thrilling in Dutch, but lose its thrill in translation. This story reminded me a little of the TV crime drama, Homeland, so if you enjoy a political crime mystery, this may be the book for you; having said that, this book would make a great book to TV series adaptation.