The Butterflies of Grand Canyon
By Margaret Erhart
A Plume Book
I suppose I was expecting something a little on the line of novels by Nevada Barr, when I selected The Butterflies of Grand Canyon by Margaret Erhart. I was sadly disappointed. Taking readers back into the 1950s was perhaps part of why I found this book lacking in content, yet there was the adultery, the marital problems, that seems to take place at any time and in any location...in fact, the storyline was somewhat predictable.
Jane Merkel is a young woman who marries a much older man. They visit family in Arizona and Jane stays for the summer and becomes attracted to a young man. Of minor interest is that her sister-in-law and her husband both realize it and appear not to think it a problem.
The mystery that is identified is that a skeleton has been found and is being stored in a garage. While the final outcome of that mystery was interesting, there certainly was little investigative activity in which the reader could participate...so you might call it one of those “let’s all meet at the end of the story now that I’ve solved the crime and I’ll tell you how I came to my conclusions...” Sometimes that type of mystery can be fun; this one wasn’t.
The opportunity to learn about the geographic area was insignificant as well, unless you know the official names for all types of butterflies. Lacking that knowledge, since no translation or alternative description was provided, I found myself skipping over the name since I had no desire to stop, mid-paragraph, and do a search on variety of butterfly, again and again.
Nearly all of the characters made a negative impression on me for one reason or another. Did everybody play a part back then? The lesbian professor and supposed amateur sleuth who loved her young assistant in secret, the liaisons that were routinely ignored, the young singles becoming involved with the married. Even solving the mystery involved an affair!
Bottom line, though, for me, was that there was not one single part of the storyline that you could really sink your teeth into and thoroughly enjoy. It was as if you happened to enter a small town and the lives of a number of people and peeked into those lives at that specific time and found, to your chagrin, that it was just as boring as the life you and your neighbors live on a routine basis...albeit the story was well written...
G. A. Bixler