Rene Denefeld’s chilling novel “The Butterfly Girl” tells the story of an investigator who is searching the city streets for a younger sister she hasn’t seen for almost 20 years. Set in a city in the northwest teeming with street people, Naomi Cottle knows the runaways she is seeking, some as young as 12, have a uniquely terrifying insight of the worst of the worst humans who can lead her to her sister’s captor.
Naomi and her sister were kidnapped from an orphanage. Hidden for years in an underground bunker, Naomi escapes. Traumatized, she has no memories of her abuse. As she grows to adulthood and starts a career as an investigator, the realization that she abandoned her baby sister surfaces.
Naomi returns to the area she vaguely remembers living in during her childhood. She seeks out the young homeless living on the streets and garners clues about the person who could have stolen her sister, and probably, she believes, murdered her.
Readers meet 12-year-old Celia, a runaway, who is trying to save her own young sister from the terror she suffered at the hands of her drug-addled mother’s abusive boyfriend. Celia’s story tells of the failure of her school and the courts to save her. Her story of survival on the streets is harrowing. Interestingly, she finds some solace in a local library.
The author writes of the world of the homeless children convincingly since she, too, was a homeless child. She became a public defense investigator and now helps trafficking victims, refugees and other find justice in a frequently unjust world.
This is the second book in a series about Naomi Cottle. It is not necessary to have read Denfeld’s first book about Naomi, “The Child Finder” to appreciate this mesmerizing story.
Naomi’s experiences, and those of others in the book, are related with compassion and great insight. This is a suspenseful story telling of a world that, with luck, most of us have not experienced.