Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

The Basics:
Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
Mulholland Books
Mystery/Thriller, Mainstream Lit
Published September 16, 2014
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why I picked up this book:

I like to dip into genres that I don't often have the opportunity to read. This one sounded creepy and modern and kind of cool.


A criminal mastermind creates violent tableaus in abandoned Detroit warehouses in Lauren Beukes' new genre-bending novel of suspense.

Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies. But this one is unique even by Detroit's standards: half boy, half deer, somehow fused together. As stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams?

If you're Detective Versado's geeky teenage daughter, Layla, you commence a dangerous flirtation with a potential predator online. If you're desperate freelance journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to get the exclusive on a horrific story. If you're Thomas Keen, known on the street as TK, you'll do what you can to keep your homeless family safe--and find the monster who is possessed by the dream of violently remaking the world.

If Lauren Beukes's internationally bestselling The Shining Girls was a time-jumping thrill ride through the past, her Broken Monsters is a genre-redefining thriller about broken cities, broken dreams, and broken people trying to put themselves back together again.

My thoughts:

Broken Monsters is creepy and suspenseful and very contemporary. Some of it worked really well for me and some of it didn't but with caveats.

So the stuff that worked great:

I loved the distinction between the characters. They're all very distinct with individuals voices and concerns. I was never confused when the perspective changed, I had no problem keeping track of who was who and what they were doing in relation to everyone else. This is a very well organized novel, which is so important when you have a big cast to manage.

Now, I'm not sure I *loved* any of the characters, but I think that's because these characters are all very realistic and... well... I don't think I'd hang out with any of them? They're beautifully, wonderfully flawed the way that people really are, and I think that makes them very believable and easy to root for or against. I was entirely engaged with what was happening to these individuals, which is a testament to the quality of the writing. Normally I really need to connect and identify with at least one character in the story to really get into it, and instead, Broken Monsters gave me a cast of characters that I didn't love but that I was curious about.

Broken Monsters provides several perspectives of life as a serial killer preys on Detroit, and I quite enjoyed that - particularly having the killer's perspective. It was dark and twisted and watching as he touched lives beyond those he was taking was intriguing. 

But even scarier than the killer was Layla, daughter of the detective hunting the killer, who was involved in... well... there's an online predator involved. As a parent? Holy crap, creepy. There are additional warnings about the Internet and the things today's teenagers need to be conscious of, and... man. *This* was easily the scariest part for me.

Unfortunately, what really didn't do it for me is the ending. I think if I sat down with the book and thought about it from "an English Major" perspective, I could unpack all kinds of meaning and so on. From a "I just want to enjoy reading this book" perspective? Things became too odd for me after I found myself so involved and frightened by what felt like real possibilities.

Bottom line:

I think Broken Monsters is a very well-conceived story with some incredibly scary things to say about modern life (and the state of affairs in Detroit!). Anyone with kids is going to be particularly frightened - consider yourself warned (and/or enticed if thrillers are your thing!)

4 stars
For fans of creepy stories, dangers of the Internet tales

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