The book is a quieter affair than its white-knuckled predecessor, more concerned with personal loss and emotional damage than with the spate of murders claiming the lives of the displaced youths at its center ... For the majority of the novel, Denfeld relegates the killings to the background, employing them as a low-frequency current that underscores the everyday horrors as well as the surprising instances of beauty of life on the streets. Murder is just another risk of being young, homeless and alone; and yet Celia feels safer on the streets than she does at home, with her opioid-addict mother and her stepfather, who was acquitted of molesting her. She seeks refuge in the public library, where she immerses herself in a fantasy world of butterflies ... Celia’s reliance on this haven is convincing, but Denfeld overdoes the metaphor ... Denfeld spells it out instead of trusting the reader to make sense of Celia’s need to rewrite the nightmare of her circumstances ... Denfeld summons the lives of abandoned girls in frank, matter-of-fact detail, never glossing over the filth or violence or the myriad ways in which society lets them down. But ultimately The Butterfly Girl is a crime novel with a murderer on the loose. In the final pages, Denfeld speeds up the narrative, creating a propulsive denouement that brings Naomi and Celia together and will satisfy adherents to the conventions of the genre.
... not a novel to shy away from dark places or dark subject matter. Rather, it runs toward both ... It is clear from the opening that Denfeld has some expertise with the subject of homeless children, pointing out the difficulties and legalities of sheltering minors ... But for all Celia’s parallels to Naomi’s sister, Celia is her own being with her own troubles. She is captivating in both her world-weary view of life and her innocence in a harsh landscape ... Denfeld is a talented writer, and The Butterfly Girl is certainly a work of compassion. In a lesser writer’s hands it might not ring as true, but Denfeld guides the reader through dangerous streets, beneath piss-stained overpasses and then back out into a world there seems to be little respite from. It is marvelously done, and Denfeld’s characters are all the better for it. They are human in the best sense of the word — humorous, loving, scared and easily rooted for.
Denfield’s writing is like lyrical poetry, with every word captivating. Add to this an amazing mystery, a plethora of suspense, and an ending that exceeds all expectations, and we have another 5 star book. For fans of What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan and Love You More by Lisa Gardner.
Writing about child abuse is difficult without descending into cynicism, avoiding salaciousness, or making the stupid and offensive mistake to assume that abuse gives victims ninja superpowers, as one popular thriller writer has ... powerful a read as Denfeld’s masterpiece The Child Finder, and makes us face the children of the city streets, the ones whose abuse we as a society tolerate and ignore ... [Denfeld's] books show us how things work and how we are culpable without slicing us open with a rusty razor ... Her writing sparkles with truth and beauty ... feels rushed and a little compelled to tie things up a bit too neatly ... I wasn’t fully satisfied with the ending, as I felt it was too insistent on that elusive 'closure' that we’re told exists, but the book as a whole is another enjoyable marvel from Denfeld, who writes survivors like no other. Few books are as good as The Child Finder; this is a worthy sequel that deepens our relationship with Naomi and Jerome, and perhaps opens doors to a new chapter that will be as exciting as what came before. I’ll be watching for that book, too.
The cynical, steadfast, streetwise Celia does much of the novel’s heavy lifting ... Denfeld reminds us that storytelling remains one of the most powerful means we have of confronting our darkest human impulses, and sometimes overcoming them. It’s unfortunate that this time, while her pacing is swift, her prose, unfortunately, is often workmanlike, lacking the sheer bravura strangeness of the previous novel ... Naomi, intent on both her missing sister and the increasingly vulnerable Celia, too often seems merely diligent than indefatigable. The tale’s resolution relies heavily on coincidences, a few of which strain even a seasoned suspense reader’s credulity. Still, few people write as well about childhood sexual trauma as Denfeld does — its origins, the legacy that can extend for generations for both victim and perpetrator and especially the coping strategies that victims develop to survive.
... a thriller with a social conscience ... With street kids continuing to be discovered in the river, and as Celia seems increasingly vulnerable, the reader wonders why Naomi doesn’t just take the waif into her world and save her from the many dangers and difficult life on the street ... Sympathy for Celia and a curiosity about children trapped in bunkers with psychopaths keeps the heart of this novel beating as does the promise of hope for Celia in her connection with Naomi. A snapshot of the reality of street life and the causes of homelessness are well etched ... a suspenseful climax ... [Denfeld] writes about this subject close to her heart with confidence and detail.
Denfeld’s career as a public defense investigator clearly informs her insight into Naomi’s hunger for the truth and elucidates Celia’s past and life on the streets. Her depictions of women and girls surviving horrific conditions through the power of their own imaginations will stay with readers.
... gripping ... Denfeld depicts the bleak lives of street kids in heart-wrenching detail; the realities of homelessness are rendered in stark language, a striking juxtaposition against Celia’s fantasy world. Denfeld emphasizes throughout that even where there is horror, there is still hope, a theme borne out in the bittersweet conclusion. Readers will be enthralled.