Detective Gabi Versado has hunted down many monsters during her eight years in Homicide. She’s seen stupidity, corruption and just plain badness. But she’s never seen anything like this.
Clayton Broom is a failed artist, and a broken man. Life destroyed his plans, so he’s found new dreams – of flesh and bone made disturbingly, beautifully real.
Detroit is the decaying corpse of the American Dream. Motor-city. Murder-city. And home to a killer opening doors into the dark heart of humanity.
A killer who wants to make you whole again…
I’ve been a huge fan of Lauren Beukes ever since I stumbled across Zoo City, a gloriously… different tale which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction Literature in 2011. It was followed up by The Shining Girls, which involved a time-travelling serial killer and a girl who didn’t die. Very different from Zoo City, but still utterly splendid and highly recommended.
So it was with much excitement that I was sent an advance copy of her latest book, Broken Monsters by the lovely folk at HarperCollins (@KillerReads). Again, all other books on the Great Unread Book Pile were promptly shifted to one side to put this one front & centre.
Short version – brilliant, go read it.
Lauren has brought us another serial killer novel, but one very different in tone from The Shining Girls. Our murderer here is building monsters from the darker part of dreams – part boy, part faun. Indelible images of a warped mind. And that’s just for starters. The story jumps between the viewpoints of multiple, beautifully realised characters – Detective Versado on her hunt for the killer, her daughter Layla and best friend Cas, trying to track down a paedophile online, freelance wannabe-famous journalist Jonno and his DJ girlfriend Jen, looking for an angle on the story, and of course the killer himself.
The plot spirals and unfurls, myriad threads twisting and turning inexorably towards the finale. It starts as a seemingly straightforward police procedural, but quickly escalates to something more, something other. Something which will stay in your mind for a long time afterwards…
Lauren shows a real mastery of the minutiae of character and has a knack for getting under their skin – scenes are beautifully written and the whole paints a chilling picture of a broken Detroit.
I loved the way she wove social media into the story, from Jonno’s listicles and his shot at fifteen minutes of fame on YouTube to Layla & Cas playing out school life against an backdrop of texts where secrets never remain secrets for long. The subplot where the girls track down a paedophile is particularly chilling and nicely played. The characters are all ultimately the broken monsters of the title.
In anyone else’s hands it could have been formulaic, but Lauren’s broken monsters inhabit the page and edge their way into your dreams.
Sleep well, she said…
disclaimer: as I mentioned above, I received an advance copy of the book for review. However, the review is my own honest opinion.