Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

A criminal mastermind creates violent tableaus in abandoned Detroit warehouses in Lauren Beukes's 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.

Lauren Beukes is an author I’ve heard a lot of hype about for a while now and Broken Monsters confirms that the hype is right.  Broken Monsters works on a lot of levels and in a lot of different ways.

Broken Monsters is a mystery with some fantastical elements and a varied cast of characters.  Detroit, where the book is set, is as much a character as any of the people.  The point of view shifts between a number of characters and none of them are giving short shrift.  Each of these people is broken in some ways, much like the city they inhabit.

Detective Gabriella Versado is given the job of solving a gruesome murder of a young boy who has been dismembered and fused with a deer.  She has to balance her job as a detective with the job of being a single mother to a teenage daughter who has her own personal drama going on.  Beukes skillfully weaves together this main storyline with stories of high school angst, bullying, disillusioned journalists, homelessness and a budding serial killer.

Beukes manages to tie all these storylines together and makes all of her characters come to life.  None of them feel like stereotypes and all of them are complicated. The characters don’t seek or inspire pity but they do make you admire the way they handle adversity.  It’s hard to do justice to the skill on display here as Beukes moves these various stories forward and brings them together in solving the main mystery.

There are so many things going on in this book. Questions about identity, who you are, who you appear to be, how others see you, how you see yourself. It’s about a city and what happens when it decays and when you try to change it. It’s about transformation. None of the characters are offered or take shortcuts. They have to work towards their goals whether they are noble or twisted.  

Broken Monsters is not necessarily a page-turner, but neither is it ever boring.  It is a book to be savored as it develops and unfolds.  Lauren Beukes is an author to keep an eye on and she is becoming must-read.  Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

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