Author: Lorraine Campbell
The Butterfly Enigma is written by Lorraine Campbell, who seems to share quite a few qualities with her leading lady Lena.
I found myself well and truly engaged with this novel from early on. Historical novels aren’t something I have always loved but during my time with Beauty and Lace I have started reading them and really enjoy the look at time periods I’m not familiar with, especially Australian ones.
The Butterfly Enigma is set in Melbourne, 1966 but it starts in a war torn Latvia, 1941 with a woman and child fleeing for their lives and boarding a boat hoping for a new life somewhere safer.
Twenty-five years later in the 1960s Lena Marceau is beginning a new life after her divorce. We meet her questioning how different her life would have been if not for a run of events that meant she arrived at the secretarial agency just after they filled all the positions and ended up with a position working for F. Carter Cunningham.
Campbell spent many years working as a court reporter in Melbourne and that’s where the inspiration for this story came from; the tales of Nazi war criminals living in Australia and not being brought to justice.
It is while working for Cunningham that Lena discovers court reporters make quite a lot more money so she set out to get qualified and change professions. We are treated to an inside view of her life as a court reporter in the days of shorthand, court reports were all taken down by hand and then raced back to the office to be dictated to a typist. I actually found the inner workings of court reporting fascinating.
Lena is a complex character; she was found wandering the streets of Paris as a child and taken in by Marguerite and Joffrey Marceau. She was a quiet child but when she did speak it was discovered that she spoke French, German and a little Latvian, when her family couldn’t be found she was adopted by the Marceaus and her childhood was put behind her; except for the nightmares.
The times have changed a lot and by the mid sixties it seems that people want to forget the atrocities committed in the war and there was no way to see Nazi war criminals brought to justice. Society was changing, it was a time of new freedoms and a change to no fault divorce was on the cards.
Society is facing huge changes but the legal profession is still extremely conservative and very much a boys club, reputation is everything. Lena begins a relationship with a lawyer who is currently engaged to the perfect match for his social standing, and soon finds herself in the company of an interfering uncle who happens to be a judge in whose court she has sat.
There is a lot going on in this book and each of the stories are compelling on its own merits, combine them all and add the way they are connected and you have a gripping tale of society, justice, love and the moral ethics involved in all of the above. The Butterfly Enigma has a cat burglar, a rapist, a war criminal, a court reporter, a socially forward thinking family and a whole cast of legal professionals. I loved it, this book grabbed me and I just wanted to keep reading until I uncovered all of the secrets.
The storyline involving allegations of war crimes against a judge were particularly fascinating. We were faced with the reluctance of the newspapers to report due to fear of legal action, society’s wish to move on and forget because it had been decades, the legal profession not wanting to bring their reputation into question as a whole and the inability to bring them to trial, or to extradite.
The Butterfly Enigma is a gripping read that I would recommend to everyone. I particulary loved Lena’s journey of discovery, after spending the bulk of her life knowing nothing of her roots she finally starts piecing together her past.