Friday, August 15, 2014

Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes

Mulholland Books, ISBN 9780316216821, September 2014

Detroit Police Detective Gabriela Versado goes to the scene where a murdered boy has been found, and walks into the most nightmarish case of her career.

It's the body of an eleven-year-old boy, or at least the top half is. The bottom half is the back half of a fawn. They're quite effectively joined together by a means which isn't at first obvious to the police or to the medical examiner. It's a potentially explosive case, and looks like it may be the start of a serial killer's spree, and they try very, very hard to keep the more outre aspects of it under wraps.

Meanwhile, Gabi's daughter Layla and her friend Cas, each struggling with their own issues in a new school, use their smartphones to lure a pedophile with unclear ideas of trapping him. Jonno, a social media "citizen journalist," recently relocated from New York and attempting to rebuild his career, latches onto this case as some of the stranger details leak out. Thomas Keen, a.k.a. TK, a homeless man with serious computer skills, a good heart, a prison term in his past, but possibly the most grounded and together character in the book, tries to help a struggling, older artist who clearly has mental and emotional problems.

Clayton Broome, the artist, is struggling to capture his visions in physical form, and sometimes that means clay. Sometimes it doesn't. Meanwhile, he's also struggling with something weird and awful living in his brain.

All these individuals pursue their own threads, sometimes connecting, sometimes not, until new works of the Detroit Monster draw them together.

I did not expect to like this book. There's an element of horror that, normally, I avoid. I was surprised, in the most wonderful way. This is a rich, compelling story with great characters. The mother/daughter relationship is stressed, loving, and strong when they need it to be. TK is interesting and compelling. Jonno and his new girlfriend Jen Q are pursuing a great story, and finding their footing as an effective team, even as they have no idea what the real effect of some of what they do is.

This is a great mystery, a great thriller, and the element of horror enriches it rather than detracting from it.


Interview with Lauren Beukes:

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

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