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Book Review: I Hunt Killers, by Barry Lyga

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Book Review: I Hunt Killers, by Barry Lyga

A trio of amateur heroines battle an evil, lawsuit-happy science-fiction cult in the first novel in the Neitherlands series.

Book Review: I Hunt Killers, by Barry Lyga

I Hunt Killers cover art

I Hunt Killers
by Barry Lyga
April 03, 2012
Review rating 3/5

I must start by saying this is actually a good novel.

It is entertaining, weaves a story that remains interesting throughout, and has a few rather memorable characters or scenes. In fact, in general it is a very skillfully told tale about the son of a serial killer who’s trying to catch a copycat while battling his inner demons.

But as they say, the devil’s in the details and it’s the details what keep me from giving this generally good novel a higher rating.

I Hunt Killers, the first book in the Jasper Dent trilogy, tells us the story of Jasper Dent, only son of Billy Dent. Billy, his father, is a serial killer so wildly successful his victims amounted to over a hundred before he got caught, and is considered such a sociopath that he saw murder as an art rather than anything else. It therefore shouldn’t surprise anyone that his only son is more than a bit… broken. Particularly because the man often showed him his work and raised him with the goal of making him an even better serial killer than he was.

The story features what’s perhaps the most idiotic police force I’ve ever seen (one that needs help from a seventeen-year-old to crack the case,) a hemophiliac sidekick, a not really well developed girlfriend, and a couple red herrings to boot.

I’m fine with all that (well, maybe not with the poorly developed girlfriend character.) Some of those things one could call necessary for the kind of story being told. What really annoyed me about this was… well, just how whiny the protagonist is. Narrated in third-person, and mostly from Jazz’s point of view, we’re given a direct window into his thoughts, his ideas, and his insecurities. And naturally a kid in his position would have a mountain of issues, that’s not the problem.

The problem is…

Reading about the same three problems (Am I a serial killer? What happened to mommy? I still remember my dog) over and over for three-hundred pages can get really old, really fast. As a reader, I felt lucky if I managed to go five pages without going back to meandering on the same issues, sometimes several times in every scene, and by the end of the book every time Jazz went onto the same old soliloquy I’d just zone him off. I swear, if you remove all the constant meandering you’d probably cut off 100 pages off the final manuscript.

Then there’s the one character I actively disliked, which is… Jazz’s grandmother and official caretaker. She’s an elderly racist, sexist, religious woman who’s losing her mind. So far so good, as these characters exist. But, when she acts out, it seems to be… played for laughs. The woman once believes she’s at a ball when a bunch of policemen are at her house. Which I guess could happen. It gets harder to believe when she throws a fit because she thinks the crowd gathering outside the house is a bunch of black people wanting to use her to, err, breed their evil babies. And then when she thinks the latina nurse at the hospital wants to steal her soul via an IV it gets ridiculous.

In other words, the old granny with dementia is written as a comic relief of sorts.

Having had two grandmothers dealing with dementia, that’s… not ok. And no, neither of my grandmothers did anything even close to what’s described here. Sometimes they weren’t all there, but what this woman supposedly thinks requires some truly wild mental gymnastics that basically kill any suspension of disbelief, particularly as granny’s antics veer dangerously close to (or right into, depending on your mileage) offensive.

But putting those two things aside, I’ll state once again that the storyline is good, and the novel is mostly entertaining. I wouldn’t mind reading the second book given that I didn’t have to pay full price for it. I just feel this could have been better had the editor perhaps paid a bit more attention to detail and how repeating the same thing over and over can really drag a book down.

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