Lauren Beukes is a disturbed person. That’s what I thought while reading Beukes’ latest novel Broken Monsters. Beukes does a good job of painting a drab and disturbing image of her what killer does as well as the city he lives in. Her writing style was again a bit odd – each chapter is told from a different characters point of view – but in this book it made more sense and had a much better flow than The Shining Girls.
Detective Gabi Versado is trying to balance being a good detective and being a good single mom. Given the discovery of a body – a young boy who’s had his upper torso fused with the back half of a deer – she’s having a hard time doing so. Gabi’s daughter, Layla, is playing dangerous game with her best friend when they start to go after an online pedophile. Clayton Broom is a failed artist who finds inspiration in the most disturbing and brutal way. These are the three main characters of Broken Monsters and they fit together well. Two other characters – Jonno, a wannabe sensationalist journalist, and Thomas “TK” Keen, a homeless man – seem to get in the way of the story at times. Jonno and TK do play a part but the chapters dedicated to them draw focus away from the story and it’s hard to understand why significant time is dedicated to them. I would say the city of Detroit is also a main character of the story as well, given its demise over the years and its desire to be revitalized.
The effect of each chapter being a different character allows the reader to see how each life is separate but connected at the same time. Layla is a teenager who has good intentions but, as typical of teenagers, some of her decisions are dumb and have ramifications in Gabi’s job. Clayton Broom isn’t quite as fleshed out as I would have liked him to be. The scenes with Broom tend to be brutal as well as violent and you get a glimmer of his madness, which made me want to know more about him. I started out thinking his was a story of a person being affected by mental health but Beukes takes things in a different direction towards the end. The ending seemed a bit odd and was somewhat jarring in Broom’s plot since I didn’t quite see things going that way. Gabi plays the balance card – her job, her daughter, and a personal relationship – in her life and her story is trying to make them all work while seemingly keeping them separate at the same time.
Broken Monsters is a mix between crime and horror. The conclusion wasn’t quite what I expected but I was able to switch my thinking and rolled with it. The second half of the book speeds up a bit and I found myself not wanting to put it down. I enjoyed how detailed Beukes got in describing the various murders since it provided nightmare inducing imagery. Broken Monsters is an enjoyable read from Beukes (that is if you like gritty gruesomeness). Reading two of her books thus far I’d say she has a definite style, as odd as it is, and I’m looking forward to more from her.