Frederick Brooke's Reviews > The Butterfly & The Bull

The Butterfly & The Bull by Stuart Haddon
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's review
Jan 14, 2012

it was amazing

In this marvelous thriller, the government of the United States has collapsed due to a world economic meltdown, and the military has taken over. Shots can be heard all over the city, even as the protagonist and his girlfriend head to a restaurant for a quiet dinner. We are one step away from martial law in our own country, and innocent people are being pulled off the street and spirited away in black SUVs on orders of the FBI.

I talked about this scenario with some friends, and we all agreed it seemed awfully plausible. In the book a resistance movement has coalesced in reaction to the military coup d'état and the kidnappings, and there is hope.

Our main character is a transplanted Scotsman living in the U.S. for some years now. Two things you learn about Donnie: he has premonitions, and he's a world class computer hacker, in part thanks to his psychic powers.

When Donnie's newlywed wife is abducted by the FBI, he learns he can gain her release if only he will work for the military government. Hero that he is, he instead joins the resistance. Now he both has to rescue his wife from the FBI's clutches and also overthrow the government.

The writing throughout this book is elegant and spare, alternating riveting action with meaningful flashbacks to Donnie's childhood or other scenes from his past. The workings of his brain are central to the development of the plot, so it all fits together beautifully. The action moves from Washington D.C. to the Chesapeake Bay to an ocean crossing in a small craft, to Ireland and England, and back again. Bonds grow strong through shared hardship and danger between Donnie and a battle-scarred band of others who are determined to fight for what is right. The special relationship between America and the UK is affirmed.

A small sample of Haddon's prose: "Our wake trailed behind us, a transient signature of our passage. People slept. Except John. I took the helm just as dawn revealed a bloody mess of sky to the east. Sailor's warning. A fresh breeze began to brush the oily look from the sea and stirred the surface into wavelets." There is a self assurance here that belies his status as a first-time novelist.

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of The Butterfly and the Bull. This book reminded me not a few times of the early Tom Clancy novels, in which the characters were fully developed and in which there were always deep moral underpinnings to the basic story. In this book, the first novel of author Stuart Haddon, a perfect balance is achieved between a good, taught storyline, well-drawn characters, and fine writing.

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