In Tasmania, Scotsman Henry Kennedy has been diagnosed with incurable cancer. He has just months to live. It is time to put his affairs in order – but Henry has a secret past, a past filled with events so terrible he cannot put them to rights. As his brain is affected by tumours, he struggles to keep his past and his present separate.
The Butterfly Man is a fictional story which uses a real murder mystery as a base. The true story is that of Lord Lucan, who went missing after allegedly murdering his children’s nanny in 1974. The novel explores a fictional life for Lucan after his disappearance, including time in Africa, a change of identity and a new life in Tasmania. However, the author does not attempt to solve the mystery of Lucan’s disappearance, instead using it to explore themes including secrets and their consequences.
The story is told in the first person voice of Henry/Lucan, with the stories of his last months, his time in Africa and the events of his marriage and the nanny’s death intertwined, so that readers are allowed to make assumptions and connections which are, at times, proved wrong. As we learn about Henry, we also learn about the life story of his partner, Lili, who has secrets of her own. Other characters also offer depth and interest – with Lili’s grandson, Charlie, and Henry’s friend Jimmy all proving intriguing.
First released in 2005, The Butterfly Man has been re-released. It is an absorbing read.
The Butterfly Man, by Heather Rose
UQP 2005, 2007