The Collector series is a crime and thriller series by Dot Hutchison. The series focuses on the Crimes Against Children unit of the FBI, following the members of a single team through a handful of their major cases. Each novel focuses on on a single agent, a single case, and the conflicts that come with them.
These content warnings apply to the novels in general, but mentions of these topics are likely to follow in this review. Proceed with appropriate caution.
CW: gore, violence, sexual assault, physical assault, rape, sexual activity involving minors, molestation, child abuse, kidnapping, neglect, mental health discussions, eating disorders, drugs, alcohol, murder, suicide, stalking, guns
As mentioned above, this series concerns itself with the cases addressed by the CAC unit. Each book is self contained, but best read in their chronological order to best appreciate and understand the personal relationships between characters.
Series Installments + Reviews
- The Butterfly Garden takes place in dual present and past perspectives. In the present, FBI Agent Vic Hanoverian is interviewing a girl identified as only Maya. One of the victims of the recently found Garden–where young women are kidnapped, tattooed, and kept as a collection–Maya unravels her story of the past from her childhood of neglect to her place in the Garden.
- Roses of May picks up several months later, in the spring of the following year. Five years prior, Agent Brandon Eddison encountered Priya Sravasti after her sister, Chavi, was found murdered. With the killer still striking every spring, both Eddison and Priya are watching the clock tick down to May. And it seems the killer is watching Priya.
- The Summer Children takes place years after the events of Roses of May and focuses on Mercedes Ramirez. Her own childhood trauma contributed to her joining the FBI, so when children begin to appear on her doorstep saying they were told by an angel she’d keep them safe she can’t help but investigate. A killer with a complicated moral code puts Mercedes in a difficult position.
- The Vanishing Season, after another jump of a few years, gives Eliza Sterling the spotlight as she handles an all too familiar kidnapping case. Emotions are running high due to several factors, but Eliza must keep her head as she organizes the team to make connections between a series of kidnappings spanning decades.
- Victor Hanoverian – One of the FBI agents, something of the father of the group. The first novel features his perspective and lays some of the groundwork for the team’s relationships.
- Brandon Eddison – Primarily known as Eddison, he takes stage in the second novel. The kidnapping of his sister, Faith, motivates Eddison from book one.
- Mercedes Ramirez – Ramirez is best with the children, her own childhood rescue inspiring her to bring stuffed toys to the children they encounter on the job. She is the first agent to receive a first person POV.
- Eliza Sterling – A newer addition to the team, Eliza is first introduced in the second novel and becomes a primary character in the final one. Eliza truly rounds out the found family of the team and their adopted “sisters.”
- Maya – Maya’s perspective is the primary one of the first novel, and after the conclusion of the first book she remains in touch with the FBI agents instrumental in her rescue.
- Priya – Priya is the primary perspective of the second novel, her relationship with Eddison that of brother and sister and drawing him into her life when she suspects Chavi’s killer is back for her.
I have….a lot for this section. Seriously. I was blown away by this series, and by Hutchison’s skill as a writer. I’m enthused to have found this series, and it’s no wonder that I read the last three books in a series of three days! I’m not sure if anyone else gets this, where the first book of a series is so good and so complete that you simply don’t want to pick up the next one and potentially ruin it. Not to worry, I whole-heartedly recommend the entirety of this series!
The writing is very considerate of the content. I can’t be certain, but I don’t think it was a coincidence that the only characters that receive first person POV sections are the women in the stories. Brandon and Vic receive perspectives, but only ever in third person. Which leads me to another nice feature of this series: the use of alternating POVs. Throughout the series, each novel features at least two unique perspectives in order to round out the story. These perspectives include the four primary agents, as well as victims and killers alike. They are done differently in each novel in order to best suit the story’s content.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the found family tropes throughout. The characters are highly affectionate with one another, and there is an abundance of love and trust among them. The characters regularly make reference to their habits of adopting one another, despite the way this sometimes reflects negatively on them in the workplace. This trope is even heavily featured in the first two novels, which involve the least FBI presence.
I sing a lot of individual praises throughout the reviews for the individual books, so I apologize if this section seems unusually short! I simply didn’t want to repeat myself for each of the four books.
There were a few things that stood out to me about the series as a whole that didn’t necessarily apply to each book individually. One of those things was the unexpected way the perspectives regularly shift. I stand by what I wrote in the good section, that I enjoyed the alternating perspectives and felt they were woven well throughout the four books. But I will admit, transitions between the books are a little jarring. When I first started Roses of May I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the new perspective split, and the same happened in the next two books. Essentially, the pattern is that there is no true pattern. Only women are given first person POV, but that does not guarantee a man’s perspective will be featured as well. The consistency is that there are multiple perspectives, but that’s about it.
Another thing that can take adjustment is the time skipping. Luckily, each novel subsequent to the first does early on establish how much time has passed. I’m not sure why the narratives take such large steps in between, though. For example, the step between the third and fourth books leaves out the building of an important relationship, relying on the budding of that relationship and the “time has passed” warning to create an entire romance for the reader. It just didn’t feel entirely authentic to read a relationship that had radically changed over three years without seeing those changes first hand.
As it is, I don’t really have a bad section. The novels aren’t perfect, of course, and that would be an unrealistic expectation going into the series. But there’s diverse representation, conscientious handling of sensitive topics, some fun tropes, and some interesting stories going on. The books flew by for me, keeping me up late into the night in order to finish just one more chapter. I was genuinely engaged every step of the way with this series, and I’m so glad that Hutchison shared The Collector series with the world.
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