Review: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published on April 3, 2012
Source: ARC from bookstore
Content: Publisher recommends for 15 and up.
I can't always predict what will completely creep me out. When I was in high school, I watched every Halloween and Friday the 13th movie. As an adult, I read all the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books. But I couldn't even get through the first episode of Dexter. Friends of mine loved it; I had to turn it off.
When I read that I Hunt Killers was a must-read for fans of Dexter, I wondered if I should skip it. Then I came across an ARC and decided I should try just a page or two. Or ten. Or a hundred. I loved this book!
My summary: Jasper "Jazz" Dent, son of notorious serial killer Billy Dent, grew up learning the family business (so to speak) at his father's knee, until Billy was apprehended by G. William Tanner, chief of police in tiny Lobo's Nod. Now Jasper is living with his crazy grandma, trying to convince himself that he can start a normal life. That's easier said than done, especially when bodies start turning up around town. Jazz wants to offer G. William his expertise. After all, Jazz understands murder. It's in his DNA. When G. William tells him to butt out, Jazz and his friend Howie start sneaking around, investigating the crimes on their own. Things quickly get a lot more perplexing -- and way more scary.
My take: Where do I begin? This book is awesome: quirky yet complicated characters, black humor, a page-turning mystery plot, and a fascinating undercurrent of inner conflict. I'll take them one by one.
Live Guys! I love YA books with fascinating, psychologically complex male characters. Guys who are not just brooding Love Triangle Fodder, but real guys, complete with flaws, gross-out humor and deeply buried insecurities. More, please!
Gallows humor! Like the scene in which Jazz tells his friend Howie that all the ways laypeople think a killer can dispose of a body are not nearly as effective as advertised. Hannibal Lecter jokes, CSI jokes -- I could go on and on. But I won't. Moving on to...
...the mystery! From the first few pages, I could tell that I was in the hands of an expert storyteller. I just sat back and enjoyed the show. So much, in fact, that the identity of the killer took me completely by surprise. And in a good way, a way that made me smack my head because I couldn't believe I missed it. Bravo!
Mangst! I don't just mean the superficial "does this t-shirt make my biceps look small" kind of mangst. Many of us worry about turning into our parents, but few of us have parents who are serving time for multiple murders. Jazz desperately wants to believe that he is nothing like his father, that he is a person who can have friends and love someone. Like his extremely patient girlfriend, Connie.
The ending! For a while, I was getting worried that, once the killer was apprehended, there would be no chance for a sequel without Lobo's Nod falling prey to the dreaded Cabot Cove Syndrome -- that's when all the residents of a fictional small town don't seem to notice fact that their murder rate is about a thousand times higher than it ought to be. But no -- Barry Lyga nicely solves this problem. Well done!
I will be waiting impatiently for I Hunt Killers II: The Return of Jazz Dent. No, that's not really the name of the next book. But whatever the title, I'm definitely going to read it!
What do you think? Have you read this book? Planning to?