Book Review: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
Published April 3rd 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 361 pages; hardcover
Genre: Mystery, Horror, Contemporary fiction
Reading Level: Teen
ISBN 0316125849 (ISBN 13: 9780316125840)
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Jazz, Jasper Dent, is a normal enough teenager in the small town of Lobo’s Nod. He has his girlfriend Connie and his best friend Howie. He even has a part in the next high school play. But Jazz is also the only son of an accomplished serial killer and Dear Old Dad Billy Dent taught his son everything he knew. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops only wish they could – from the killer’s point of view. Now people are turning up dead once more and Jazz must track the new killer down in an effort to prove that murder does not run in the family, especially as the new killer is doing everything just like Billy Dent did all those years ago.
I occasionally read mysteries but they have to have something unique to pull my interest in. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga definitely fit the bill and is probably the most interesting mystery I’ve ever read. It all centers around the very different main character. I was blown away by Jazz. First of all, I always seem to enjoy books with male main characters more than I do their female counterparts. Perhaps it is that male characters tend to avoid several stereotypical behaviors that even a well-written female character might display. (My kingdom for a female character not obsessed with some hot guy.) Then we have Jazz’s unique connection to serial killers and his very chilling reactions to the world around him. People fascinate me. Well, they also annoy the crap out of me, but the ‘why’ of their behaviors fascinates me. Jazz stands on the cusp of two worlds, his motivation to be good and that part of him still under the sway of what his father taught him; the killer inside that Jazz does not want to get out (or thinks he should not want to get out). Jazz is the most complex character I’ve read about in a long time. The boy gave me goose-bumps several times in this story.
I Hunt Killers kept me guessing. Lyga keeps throwing Deputy Erikson in our faces as the killer but as a reader we know that because Erikson is so visible in the story that he can’t be the killer. It’s a kneejerk reaction of “that’s too easy”. At one point I was convinced that Jazz was having some sort of split personality and really was killing those people himself. We even suspect Sheriff G. William and the journalist Doug Weathers because Jazz himself suspects him. We are perfectly strung along. In the end, the killer is plainly visible but was the one person Jazz never suspected. Surprised the hell out of me too! I can’t wait for the sequel. I hope Jazz is a few years older in the next book, out of high school and considered an adult. It would be interesting to see what Jazz does as an official profiler.
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga is going on my list of favorite books for 2012. I adored all the characters, even the greatly disturbing Billy Dent, and was captivated at every turn. I couldn’t put it down! It has the best of the mystery and horror genres, with a complex plot and creepy, deeply unsettling thought processes. Here there be demons, folks. Check your squeamishness at the door. That said, I Hunt Killers is also an enthralling, wild ride with many twists and turns and I recommend it to anyone looking for a unique murder mystery that will make you check the door is locked multiple times.
Memorable Quote: “Sometimes his programming simulated human emotions pretty well. And sometimes he convinced himself that it wasn’t programming at all.”
Warning! If you disturb easily, I might give this book a pass. (Or at least make sure all the lights are on when you read it.) There are, of course, descriptions of murder and blood in this book but there are also mentions of rape, possible matricide, animal cruelty and death, grief, and a whole host of other unnerving behaviors and events. Do not read before bedtime, that’s all I’m saying.