Talk-o-Babble, Episode 1:
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
Hello and welcome to the first Talk-o-bout a book (or Talk-o-Babble) discussion! A book review on the latest novel I read.
As usual, I found another book about serial killers and investigations and fell in love with it. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga has a way of capturing you. Whether it’s the main character Jazz and his insight into murder, or the very idea of him being the son of a serial killer, this novel grips you. And it certainly gripped me.
To give a quick summary:
The story follows the son of a notorious serial killer, Jasper Dent, as he tries to distance himself from his father’s legacy and live a normal life. However, when a series of gruesome murders take place in his hometown, Jasper joins forces with the police, the very person who put away his father, to track down the killer.
Let’s talk PLOT—5/5
The story revolves around Jasper “Jazz” Dent, and his journey to prove his own innocence and stop a new killer from striking again. This story is captivating to the point of wondering about your own thoughts on murder and the darkness inside of you. It questions nurture versus nature and delves into how, as a child (the product of an evil man), you might go against either or both. Are you what you were brought up to be? Or are you the product of your own choices? Maybe the product of an environment that you choose? It also questions whether you should stay loyal to a family that planted evil inside of you. And offers the opinion that you have to be the one to decide whether it’s good for you to face them, care for them, or turn a blind eye. For Jazz, it’s a constant struggle. With his Gramma’s mental illness, he almost feels sorry for her, but when her meanness comes through, he’s reminded why he hates her.
While parts of the story are a bit predictable, others will slap you across the face. But no matter the predictability at some parts, the story will always have you hooked and engaged. Especially when it comes to the murders and how they’re planned out and presented. It’s a slow gradual build in intensity, which helps us to understand how Jazz sees them. He panics and gets afraid sometimes, but death is always just kind of there for him. It’s not the end of the world, it doesn’t bring him into a rage of emotions. By having such a calm intensity, Lyga is able to parallel how the reader feels with how Jazz feels. And it’s awesome.
Let’s talk CHARACTERS—4/5
Overall, the characters in this story are very well-developed and fleshed out. Especially Jazz. He’s a complex character because he’s torn between loyalty to his father and his sense of morality. He wants to believe that he’s a good person, but he can’t when he’s constantly questioning if his intentions are real or not. In fact, his identity is so in question that he can’t even trust that his thoughts are his own. Sometimes they’re a carbon copy of his father’s, and sometimes, he feels like he’s just pretending to be a good person.
But time and time again, we see him prove that his intentions—his true intentions—are just to be normal. And being normal means sometimes being selfish but ultimately caring about those around you. The problem for Jazz is…he also proves time and time again that maybe he’d rather just kill someone than care about them.
Also, he’s got a pretty sick sense of humor which can be both hilarious and a little disturbing.
For the supporting characters, like Howie, Connie, and Billy, Lyga did well to give them depth without overtaking the importance of Jazz. Howie’s a type A hemophiliac with a taste for tattoos and a penchant for getting in trouble with his best friend, Jazz. Connie’s the no-nonsense pistolwhip of a girlfriend who wants Jazz to stop living in the past and enjoy his life in the here and now. As for Billy, he’s a charming sociopath with an uncanny ability to make people love him while ruthlessly killing them like sheep.
But the most important side character, for me, G. Williams Tanner, falls a little bit short. He’s a formidable cop, one who was able to catch Billy after a lifetime of him eluding the authorities. And he’s stubborn, he’s overworked, overwhelmed, and therefore struggling through life on the heavy side. It just gives me “average cop,” which isn’t the worst thing he could be, but I hoped for a little more.
With this list of characters, there’s so much to love!
Let’s talk WRITING STYLE—4/5
Lyga’s writing style is engaging and easy to read, with a good balance of humor and suspense. I love the way he writes dreams and brings them to life with just the simplest words and phrases. Also, the inclusion of Jazz’s thoughts made for a very interesting and consistent nagging. Like we, as the readers, were suffering the same nagging. It put Billy right there in our heads, too.
One other thing I appreciated about the writing style was the jump to the killer’s perspective. It didn’t happen often, and it didn’t happen consistently, but it happened in a way that reminded me he was there. It lurched me out of my comfort and plopped me right back into the killer’s wheelhouse, where for a time I wasn’t safe. And then I was back, like a very unsettling nightmare—similar to the one’s Jazz experiences.
Let’s talk ATMOSPHERE—5/5
I love the atmosphere of this book, not because it builds the perfect intense and creepy world (which it very much does), but because in many ways, I felt unusually safe. There were only a few times when I truly felt disturbed, and they were perfectly timed with both the murders and Jazz’s memories. With graphic and vivid descriptions, Lyga made the crime scenes and memories both stomach-turning and captivating.
But I also appreciated Lyga’s comfortable and warm scenes, like the school, the coffee house, and the police station. And I doubly appreciated his ability to then strip that comfort away and make all of those places feel cold and dead. He was masterful in his undertaking of slowly chipping away at our feeling of safety.
Until we had no safety left.
I devoured this book from cover to cover. It was a delicious but disturbing journey through the mind of a killer’s kid. And I came to adore and love Jazz just as much as his friends do. I would highly recommend I Hunt Killers to fans of crime and mystery novels. It’s a fast-paced and gripping read that’ll have you up all night wondering who the killer is. Meeting strangers at the store and questioning their motives. And maybe, just maybe, causing you a small amount of paranoia in your everyday life. And it’ll do so with a graphic flare other mysteries lack, so it’s not for the weary of heart.
But it’s definitely worth reading!