BOOK CLUB: The Devil’s Butterfly

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The Devil’s Butterfly by Australian author Jason K Foster is a gripping and engaging tale based on the true story of a killer con man.

Serial killers are those murderers who commit at least two homicides, in separate incidents with an interval between their acts of murder. Of all the different types of criminals, it’s the serial killer that frightens us the most.

This book is the story of the man known as Frank Butler, Australia’s first serial killer and conman.

Butler born Richard Ashe in Dorset, England in 1858, adopted numerous aliases as he travelled the world, arriving in Australia in the early 1890s. In and out of prison, on and off the gold fields, Ashe found himself in Sydney in mid-1896 using the name Frank Butler Harwood.

Butler placed advertisements in Sydney newspapers under the name Harwood, seeking men to accompany him to search for gold.  He selected three respondents: Charles Burgess, Arthur Preston, and Lee Weller and took them to the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney in the pretence of untold wealth.  There, he made his companions dig their own graves before he shot them, robbed them, buried them, and then moved on. 

With fear of his capture, Butler fled Australia to San Francisco, using the identity papers of one of his victims. Police realise he has fled the country, and a manhunt is conducted, with solid detective work, he is found, with his extradition back to Australia to face trial.

With a guilty verdict given the death sentence by hanging was carried out on 16 July 1897 in Darlinghurst Gaol. His body was left to hang in the courtyard for all to see. 

Jason K Foster has written many books about murder, and The Devil’s Butterfly is another great addition. We all know about serial killers, and most of us can name quite a few, I had never heard of Frank Butler and books like this are an eye-opener on how many in history there were.

This is all in the knowledge that this was all true and a nightmare lived out in the real world, a long time ago these killers once lived among us and some still do which makes my blood run cold. 

There is a keen wit to the whole atmosphere and presentation of the storyline that will draw readers in. The pacing really helps the facts of the scheming Butler did to sink in. It is a story that must be heard to be believed, making sure you remember Butler long after you’ve finished reading.

The author has spent an incredible amount of time researching history, and we are rewarded for his efforts. It not only explores the history of Butler and the circumstances that led him to commit such violent crimes but also the background of the investigation and his capture. It is a fascinating tale of murder and so-called justice.

I loved the timeline with illustrations, the visual aid complemented the story bringing the words to life in a way that makes readers more involved.  Prior to the book I had Googled photos of Frank Butler, to have them included in the book was a great addition. 

As a real fan of true crime, this is a fascinating read. if you enjoy true non-fiction historical crimes, I highly recommend this book.

You may also like Shattered Lives:

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading The Devil’s Butterfly by Jason K Foster. You can read their feedback in the comments below, or add your own review.

7 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Devil’s Butterfly

  1. The Devil’s Butterfly by Jason K Foster (BigSkyPublishing) is the true story of a serial killer who terrorised NSW back in the 1890’s.

    Frank Butler was an audacious conman, who lured his prey with the promise of adventure and riches in the NSW goldfields. Wily enough to know when to move on, and adopting numerous aliases along the way, he managed to elude the authorities for some time.

    This is a well told story which includes historical detail that cleverly captures the gold rush spirit of the times, and shows the gullibility and trust of many of the young fossickers, as well as the blood lust of a calculating killer!

  2. Thankyou Beautyandlace and Big Sky Publishing for the opportunityto review ‘The Devil’s Butterfly’ by Jason K. Foster.
    Such a great story about a notorious Australian serial killer.
    Set in 1896 Frank Harwood (Butler) is in Sydney advertising for a mining partner. This one would be his first known victim a Mr Burgess.
    He would lure his victims with stories boasting of how lucrative his mining ventures would become. Each man was murdered, procured in the same advertised way and being offered shares.
    Always in his advertising for a partner he would interview his potential victim in the hotel where he was staying at the time, and then very carefully choosing men who had no close family. This way he thought no-one would notice them missing.
    In all he had five victims and probably many more.
    All was well until the first body was discovered.
    His downfall came when he took on the identity of one of his victims and boarded a ship bound for san Francisco under that name.

    This was easy to read and very interesting with illustrations throughout.
    The chapters explained the content and this was a book I thoroughly enjoyed, especially the way in which the detectives worked to discover his deceit.
    He was a notorious liar!

  3. As a lover of all things True Crime – especially Australian True Crime I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the harrowing story of killer/conman Frank Butler. His crimes would send the colony of NSW into a state of both panic and fear. Frank would advertise for a mate for a prospecting trip to snare his new victim – one who wouldn’t be missed (targeting men who weren’t married) should they happen to disappear. Five men would answer Franks advertisement and 3 would disappear. Three of his victims would unwittingly dig their own graves under the guise that while digging they would find gold only to then be shot dead and buried in the hole they had dug. Soon Frank flees Australia boarding a boat headed for San Francisco. Two detectives are soon on his tail reaching San Francisco before Frank arrives. He then finds himself arrested and standing trial for murder first in the US and then is extradited back to Australia to stand trial again. This would be one of the biggest arrests in Australian history.

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace book club and of course Big Sky Publishing for my copy of The Devil’s Butterfly by author Jason K. Foster for an unforgettable read.

  4. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the offer to review The Devil’s Butterfly by Jason K. Foster.

    The Devil’s Butterfly is a very well researched true crime book. It centres around Frank Butler, a con artist who in 1896 wants to do mining but needs a partner and advertises for one, He gets replies and interviews them. He tells them tales of the riches that will amount. He only takes the men who had no family thinking they won’t be missed and no one would be searching for them. He has three victims he seizes upon. The first one is a man by the name of Mr. Burgess.
    Frank thinks he has got away with his crimes so he steals the identity of one of his victims. He uses that name of a ship he boards going to San Francisco. Unbeknown to Frank Detectives are on to him and are waiting in San Francisco. He is charged with murder in the United States and then also back in Australia.

    I always love reading an Australian book and this one was so well researched. I am surprised I had not heard of Frank Butler before reading this book.

  5. I am not usually a reader of true life stories but this was written in such a way that it felt like we were there, that the author had inside knowledge. Well researched and informative, the story flowed over the time period, revealing a clever man for what he was.

    I especially enjoyed seeing the illustrations that I can only presume were from newspapers at the time. I read this over the course of a weekend and congratulate the author on a job well done!

  6. Thank you to Beauty and lace and Big Sky Publishing for the book ‘The Devil’s Butterfly’ by Jason K. Foster. I must say this book was quite confronting and brutal. The author laid bare the story in the book and it is true after reading this the chilling way these murders were carried out will stay with you long after reading this book.

    While this is not the general type of book I read it did hold my attention for the mere fact of the cold blooded way the victims were chosen and then murdered.

    If you love a good true crime murder mystery then this one is for you! I wont forget this story to quickly!

  7. The Devil’s Butterfly was such an interesting true crime novel.
    Set in the gold rush times in Australia, I enjoyed the history and setting and was fascinated with the story of Frank Butler, his desire for, and enjoyment of, murder. His cunning ways to trap his victims and lies and deceits make for an engaging novel. Equally, Foster cleverly details the police work, following the evidence, hunting him in Australia and chasing him overseas as well as the court proceeding – this ensures an intriguing tale.

    I would recommend this novel for true crime fans, mystery lovers and even those who like to read about Australian history. It’s an easy to read story even although the subject matter is quite grim!
    I hope I never come across someone like Frank Butler!

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