The Killing of Butterfly Joe is a quirky novel about butterflies, lies, and a road trip. Llew Jones is a Welshman in America, looking for an American adventure he could write about. A chance encounter with Joe Bosco, charismatic butterfly salesman with an unusual family and morphing past, sets Llew—newly christened Rip Van Jones—across 1980s America in search of butterfly fortune. However, all does not go to plan, and telling the truth becomes vital.
Filmic in its combination of road trip, thriller, and morality tale elements, this is a novel that is bold and charming like its titular character. Considering it is centred around selling dead butterflies, it is surprisingly gripping, using a framing device of Llew telling the story to prove his innocence combined with a story that doesn’t seem like it’s going to end in death. A real focus of the novel is upon truth, lies, and telling your own versions of stories, from sales techniques to finding out people might be exactly as described. This gives it a nice metafictional aspect along with a narrator clearly trying to craft a narrative.
It is the combination of elements—characters, tension, road trip, telling stories—that really make The Killing of Butterfly Joe come together into an unusual novel, a charming and fun read. It is a book for people who enjoy personal mythology and a character being pulled into the world of an eccentric family, but also a narrative with tension and entertainment.